Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon joins Frito-Lay owned Stacy’s to uplift women entrepreneurs

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

This year, Stacy's Rise Project has enlisted Reese Witherspoon and her media company to highlight women in business. Pic: Stacy's
This year, Stacy's Rise Project has enlisted Reese Witherspoon and her media company to highlight women in business. Pic: Stacy's

Related tags Stacy's PepsiCo Frito-Lay Reese Witherspoon Oscars women empowerment mentorship

Stacy’s Pita Chips has partnered with actress and producer Reese Witherspoon and her media company, Hello Sunshine, to spotlight the 10 standout winners of the 2021 Stacy’s Rise Project.

The mission behind the Stacy’s Rise Project is to help American women grow their businesses through funding, mentoring and community. ​Each year, 10 standout finalists are selected to receive a $10,000 grant, mentoring from Frito-Lay and PepsiCo leaders and the opportunity to participate in a high level speaker series.

More importantly, they also become part of a built-in community to experience the power of women coming together to lift each other up, celebrate each other’s successes, and achieve their dreams.

The need for support

To extend visibility to women in 2022, the brand has forged a partnership with Reese Witherspoon and her media company, Hello Sunshine. As a female-founder herself, the Oscar-winning actress and producer has firsthand understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities female founder face in today’s society

Earlier this year, Stacy’s commissioned a survey of 500 US females who currently run or plan to startup a business with the intent of making a profit, which revealed that unconscious bias – defined as ‘prejudice’ or ‘social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness’ – is a major hurdle that many face.

Notably, 34% said they frequently experience unconscious bias from other people, while 76% said they have encountered challenges their male counterparts have not. When it comes to having a support system, the survey reinforced the importance of having female leaders and mentors, with more than 45% of respondents saying it was very important.

“I truly believe that when one woman rises, we all rise, and that is why my team at Hello Sunshine and I partnered with Stacy’s, beginning with the 2021 Stacy’s Rise Project,”​ said Witherspoon.

“This partnership and project are so important because it not only provides essential funding, but also provides unmatched support through mentorship and connections to help female founders take their business to the next level.”

Class of 2021

Staying true to its roots as a female-founded brand that grew from a sandwich cart to nationwide distribution, Stacy’s is committed to supporting women in business. Stacy Madison created her eponymous snack line in 1998, which PepsiCo acquired in 2006 for a reported $250m. The Rise Project – launched in 2019 with longtime partner Hello Alice – has, to date, invested more than $450,000 to #HelpWomenRise. This year, the programme received an overwhelming amount of interest, with an almost 300% increase in applications, evident of its standing and effectiveness in empowering women.

The finalists of Stacy's Rise Project Class of 2021:

  • Florida native Sara Fludd who founded Pop Goes the Waffle, an innovative waffle company dedicated to authentic liege waffle via retail, wholesale and eCommerce.
  • Samotria Holmes, founder of Holmes Sweet Home, a South Carolina-based specialty food producer that is hyper focused on ingredient quality and supporting the local economy.
  • Marsha Stephanson from Texas, who founded Cater to Mom, a monthly postpartum self-care subscription for new and seasoned moms.
  • Minneapolis resident Sue Kakuk who founded Kakookies, a grab-n-go plant-based protein cookie concept that provides the nutrition of energy bar with the comfort of a freshly made cookie.
  • Jocelyn Ramirez, founder of Todo Verde, a plant-based Mexican food business based in  East Los Angeles.
  • Adrienne Walker from Capitol Heights in Maryland, who founded BlueHenry, a manufacturer of all-natural beverage garnishes made from dehydrated fruit, simple syrups and rimming salts and sugars to amplify craft cocktails.
  • Californian Amber Balakian who founded Balakian Farms, which produces speciality fruit and veggies like Organic Blended Heirloom Tomatoes.
  • Another Californian resident Alberta Liao, founder of Jinka, the first vegan tuna spread in the refrigerated section with a goal to provide a clean, healthy and sustainable alternative.
  • Julie Butcher from Estero in Florida, who who founded The Vegan Knife, which offers a line of allergy friendly and vegan cake and doughnut mixes.
  • San Francisco resident Sajani Amarasiri, who’s startup Kola Goodies makes superfood latte blends designed to boost energy, mood, immunity and well-being. The blends are made with ingredients sourced directly from South Asian farmer collectives.

Fans can track the finalists’ exciting journey by following #StacysRiseProject and #TimeToRise across all social media channels.

“As we continue to champion the Stacy’s Rise Project and founders across the US, we’re overjoyed to partner with Hello Sunshine and Reese Witherspoon , whose dedication to empowering female entrepreneurs is inspirational and perfectly align ed with Stacy’s legacy of supporting these women,”​ said Ciara Dilley, Frito-Lay VP of marketing.

“This is just the beginning of Stacy’s work with Hello Sunshine and Reese to spotlight remarkable founders and continue to build up a community of empowered and supported women.”

Find a women-owned business near you

New this year is Stacy’s FoundedByHer.org platform, an online business directory to make it easier to discover female-founded businesses across the US. Targeted at both consumers and industry stakeholders, the resource lists businesses by zip code or category, and is free to women to register their own companies.

To celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day​ on 19 November, consumers are invited to support founders through the FoundedByHer curated gift boxes that represent a variety of founders featured in the FoundedByHer.org directory.

Hello Sunshine’s mission is to place women at the centre of every story across all its targeted platforms, from scripted and unscripted television to feature films, animated series, podcasts, audio storytelling and digital series. The media company is also home to Reese’s Book Club and the newly launched RBC App.

Recently, Hello Sunshine acquired Sara Rea’s SKR Production to expand its unscripted content and also announced the launch of the Kids & Animation Division to create content for a younger audience.

The company was listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential Companies of 2021.

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