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As Fearless Fund faces a lawsuit, a grantee shares what the fund did for her org

A Baltimore ecosystem builder discusses supporting minority- and women-owned businesses — and how the fund enabled her group to pursue that mission.

Hazel Geary (top right, in orange) and other participants in the Monument Women’s Creative Alliance's International Women’s Day Soiree. (Courtesy Monument Women's Creative Alliance)
This is a guest post by Hazel Geary, cofounder of women creatives-focused network organization Monument Women's Creative Alliance. She is also a partner in Drio LLC, a digital marketing company.

As branding and marketing experts, a huge part of our job is helping business owners and brands pinpoint the strengths, nuances and perspectives that make them stand out. We dig deep and ask the tough questions to help our clients identify those “superpowers” and bring them to the surface in everything they do. For many of our clients, diversity — and a commitment to diversity — is one of those superpowers.

We believe that now, more than ever, being a minority-owned, female-led business is a competitive advantage. In fact, as the cofounder of Drio LLC, a women- and minority-owned web design and digital marketing boutique agency based in Baltimore, Maryland; and Monument Women’s Creative Alliance, a networking organization for Baltimore’s women creatives, I believe we have a responsibility to shout it from the rooftops.

This is especially true in light of recent headlines like the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action — and there’s one other, perhaps lesser-known headline that could have a big impact on many women-owned businesses.

Last month, conservative activist Edward Blum filed a lawsuit against the Fearless Fund and its Women of Color Grant, which has invested $26 million and awarded $3 million to businesses led by women of color. The lawsuit claims that it is discriminatory to grant funds exclusively to women of color-owned businesses.

The Fearless Fund grant program, in partnership with Tory Burch and The Cru Team, selects a small, carefully vetted group of women of color-owned businesses to receive grants ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. This is significant because, according to McKinsey and Company, Black women and Latina founders received less than 1% of venture capital funds disbursed in the U.S. last year.

In 2022, our aforementioned women creatives-focused networking community was one of 150 proud recipients of a $10,000 grant from Fearless Fund. We had access to capital that allowed us to further our mission, which is to support women creatives in Baltimore by cultivating a community that enables connection, inspiration and education. The support enabled us to not only dream but to chart a short- and long-term vision for our organization. Moreover, this fund provided us with the resources needed to reach more women and conduct important market research, which in turn helped us understand what our members wanted and where they wanted us to grow.

In addition to giving us financial support, the Fearless Fund offered invaluable mentorship and linked us with hundreds of diverse businesses across different industries, from marketing and finance to health and wellness.

Since receiving the grant, we’ve been able to elevate our mission of helping Baltimore’s female creatives by clearly defining our strategic vision, creating an updated onboarding experience for new members, fostering a more welcoming culture and exploring new ways to boost participation and engagement. We’ve also hired fellow women- and minority-owned businesses to help us achieve these things. Our growth and increased visibility led to us hosting a highly successful International Women’s Day event in March, bringing together influential Baltimore entrepreneurs, personalities and government officials like Brooke Lierman, Maryland’s first female comptroller.

In a time when it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by or even cynical about the news, focusing on the positive impact of grants like this is a reminder of what’s possible when we lift each other up.

Grants like those from the Fearless Fund are so important not only because they offer us a chance to break through barriers. They also help create a ripple effect that extends far beyond each individual recipient and into the community. Monument Women’s Creative Alliance is a community of 370-plus women across the Baltimore metro community. Through our programming, events and networking opportunities, we give women-owned businesses a safe space to connect with, support and hire each other, consequently driving the local economy.

Being a part of this Fearless Fund initiative truly proved our longstanding belief that when women support women, incredible things happen. It’s our hope that in the future, more female-led businesses in Baltimore and beyond will be able to benefit from programs like this.  By sharing our story, we hope others can see how the Fearless Fund grant impacted our greater community.


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