After finding out just how difficult it is to scale a successful business as a female entrepreneur, Cocokind Founder and CEO Priscilla Tsai established the brand’s Impact Foundation in June 2018 in an effort to provide financial grants to women-led businesses that are focused on manifesting social impact through business within the health, wellness and sustainability industries. In the organization’s second year, Cocokind will award five entrepreneurs a total of $40,000.
The Cocokind Impact Foundation also provides consulting services for recipients and the brand's team matches mentors to each startup to ensure they have the best chance at reaching their full potential. Grant winners are also featured across cocokind’s website and social media channels.
Below, Tsai explains her motives for establishing the program, as well as how we can best support female founders trying to make it in the natural products industry.
Tell us a little bit about the Cocokind Impact Foundation—how did you decide upon a dual financial grant and counseling model?
Priscilla Tsai: I know how hard it is to start a business and I understand all of the unique struggles that come with it. Once Cocokind was off the ground, I felt really sympathetic toward new female founders facing those same challenges and I wanted to help them turn their ideas into real, thriving businesses.
We provide both financial grants and mentorship to female-identifying entrepreneurs in the health, wellness and sustainability industries. I wanted to provide both of these resources because while money is important, feeling like you have a supportive network of people to call when you need help is just as important.
How many female entrepreneurs have been given grants to date, and what qualities do you look for in an applicant or a recipient?
PT: We have provided 13 grants to date, since establishing [the foundation] in 2018. Grantees must be female-identifying, U.S. residents, 18 years or older and they must have not yet raised institutional capital. My goal is to boost companies that are still in the early stages of their businesses; companies that need that kind of assistance the most.
And we’re looking for people who want to create real, social change with their businesses and set a higher standard for what consumers should expect from companies.
Could you delve into the kinds of companies these entrepreneurs represent (size, revenue, types of products, diversity, etc.)?
PT: We’ve had a pretty diverse array of grantees, but we require all businesses to be in the health, wellness or sustainability industries and to have a greater social mission baked into their business model. Some of our most recent grantees include the founders of Social Cipher, a video game engineered to help autistic youth learn social skills and self-advocacy and the founders of KIMBRITIVE, an organization that provides resources and workshops to women and girls of color to help them make informed decisions about their bodies, identities and sexual and reproductive health.
How does the mentorship program work, and how long do these relationships continue?
PT: Within the first year after being selected, we match every grantee with a mentor who is a founder or leader in their respective business. We choose mentors based on who we believe can be the most helpful to the entrepreneur in question, given their specific area of expertise.
A growing number of women are launching companies, so how can we best support them and encourage diversity and inclusion within the natural products industry?
PT: Always know that you vote with your dollars. Choosing to purchase products or services from businesses that you believe in and want to support can make a difference. Also, I think it’s always important to showcase positive examples. Every opportunity to learn about a female entrepreneur is another opportunity to see yourself in them, get inspired and have the confidence to do what you want to do.
In your experience, has the industry as a whole been improving in this regard?
PT: Yes, I think it has. I definitely see a lot more female founders than I used to, which is amazing. I think that continuing to empower each other and support these businesses in any way we can will help us continue to improve and diversify the industry more and more.