Since 2019, I’ve been honored to select two female-led entrepreneurial ventures from the Greater Cincinnati area as the recipients of the Wendy S. Lea Grant for Female Founders. Funded by the Robert A. and Diane J. McDonald Family Foundation and the social impact firm Main Street Ventures, the grant provides female founders with capital to launch and grow their businesses.
Growing Healthy Roots
The first grant in 2019 was awarded to Healthy Roots, a company founded by Yelitsa Jean-Charles in 2014. Healthy Roots produces dolls and books that celebrate natural hair care for young girls of color. The company has made huge strides and has now raised an institutional round of funding. Yelitsa is a crazy smart entrepreneur and is also completely courageous. In 2020, she was recognized in Forbes’ “30 under 30,” and the company was recently featured on the Today Show.
Next up: InnoVation Girls
I kicked off 2021 with an investment in InnoVationGirls, a training and mentorship platform for girls founded by Rita David and Richard Zreik. Through the platform, girls between the ages of 10 and 18 have the opportunity to solve “real problems for real companies using systematic inventive thinking” and “gain the confidence to explore their own ideas and ventures.”
It has been the honor of a lifetime to have this grant given in my name. I’m so grateful to my mentor, Bob McDonald, his wife Diane, and his family for instituting the grant and to Main Street Ventures for their support. In selecting to invest in and mentor these female founders, I will pay forward the support I’ve been given throughout my own entrepreneurial journey.