From eco-friendly retailers pushing repurposed vintage goods and zero-waste products to an educator-run tutoring company that caters to digital learners, four women-owned businesses are getting a well-deserved boost with a total of $10,000 in grants recently awarded through the Downtown Long Beach Alliance’s Woman-Owned Business Accelerator (WOBA) economic development program.

Funded by long-time partner Farmers & Merchants Bank, the WOBA winners were selected by DLBA’s Economic Development Committee. Each of the small, women-led businesses went through a competitive application process, in which they presented business plans detailing how the money would be used to start or grow their companies.

“Encouraging successful entrepreneurship is an effective way to create jobs and stimulate the local economy, and DLBA is excited to work with our business partners on WOBA, which is a true community effort,” said DLBA President & CEO Austin Metoyer. “From the start, we have found the WOBA annual grants and professional training are investments that pay excellent dividends. It’s part of DLBA’s efforts to support women as well as BIPOC businesses to fill gaps with tailor-made solutions for the underinvested.”

The grant winners also gain access to key technical assistance and coaching from the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at California State University, Long Beach, and are eligible to receive free business development coaching estimated to be worth $3,000 from Fuller Management Corporation, located Downtown.

Among the recipients, Julie Darrell, owner of BYO Long Beach, received $2,500 to support her retail business dedicated to zero-waste reusable products. Darrell wants to use the money and training to improve the company’s signage, graphics and website, while also making customer experience more engaging and educational.

Her business was founded in 2017 as a local resource for community members to bring their own containers to refill on non-toxic soaps and cleaning products, in addition to other alternatives to single-use plastic. Today, as it continues to grow and evolve, it’s nearing a special milestone.

“We are so excited to announce that we have refilled over 75,000 containers since we first started,” Darrell said. “That means there were 75,000 not sent to the landfill or recycling facility because people chose to refill instead. We are so proud of the community involvement and enthusiasm, and we are well on our way to hit 80,000 by the end of this year.”

Awarded $3,000 to support her vintage home décor business, 6th and Detroit, owner Michelle Qazi wants to put her grant funding and training toward website updates, some in-store technology upgrades to improve efficiency and the replacement of a graffiti-damaged window.

Qazi, a mom and businesswoman who is passionate about scouring estate sales to find treasures that deserve new life, started her eco-friendly business in 2015. She said, “Running your own business can feel lonely at times, and to know that there’s support to help guide you is priceless.”

“The money and training will give me the support and guidance I need to help me reach my business’s goals,” she added. “There is so much passion put into this business that I want to do whatever it takes to help see it grow to its full potential, and I think I can do that with the help of this generous grant and training.”

Another recipient of a $3,000 grant, Katy Impellizzeri is the owner of Ethiki Package-Free Goods, which is an eco-minimalist, vegan market inciting change one zero-waste product at a time. The new business was established earlier this year, and Impellizzeri said she will use her funding and training to develop a grocery delivery system and loyalty program for online shoppers.

“Born out of my frustration with corporate greed, lack of inclusivity, plastic pollution and food waste, Ethikli’s mission is to eliminate waste and suffering, proving that ethical business is possible,” she said.

“This money is invaluable to help take Ethikli to a new level,” she said. “It’s not easy starting a business mid-pandemic and mid-recession, so every single penny will be used consciously to make my mission of ethical business a reality. I’m so incredibly grateful for this aid and am excited to use it to give back to the community 10 times over. It means the world and beyond knowing I have the support of DLBA to keep my dream alive.”

Sharing similar sentiments about how the support can help the business she started mid-pandemic, Scholars Collective owner and educator Angela Macias was awarded a $1,500 grant to help support tutoring and enrichment programs for children.

She started her growing business online in 2021 and will use the funding to help launch an e-sports league in the new year, noting how “Gaming is a huge industry and also an important part of youth culture, so we want to provide safe and fun access to an environment that fosters positive gaming experiences.”

Recipients noted how they are grateful that the support from the Woman-Owned Business Accelerator includes not only funding but also expert technical assistance and business coaching that can help them realize potentials they might not even yet envision and continue their success long into the future.

Fuller Management Corporation Owner and Executive Director Kena Fuller said working with entrepreneurs through the WOBA program is always a pleasure.

“Embarking on year five of this incredible program, we look forward to another stellar cohort of wildly impressive, determined, passionate women entrepreneurs who pursue business ownership in a way we love and appreciate,” Fuller said.

For more information about the Woman-Owned Business Accelerator and other grant programs, visit the Downtown Long Beach Alliance website.