Founding Females

Red Letter Grants awarded to women-owned startups

Tom Giffey, photos by Eric Christenson

WISHES GRANTED. Becca Cooke (center left), owner of Red’s Mercantile and facilitator of the Red Letter Grant, presents the spring 2017 winners, Melnaturel LLC (left) and Odd Brand Strategy (right). Each startup was awarded $2,000.
WISHES GRANTED. Becca Cooke (center left), owner of Red’s Mercantile and facilitator of the Red Letter Grant, presents the spring 2017 winners, Melnaturel LLC (left) and Odd Brand Strategy (right). Each startup was awarded $2,000.

Two female-fronted Eau Claire-area startups – Odd Brand Strategy and Melnaturel LLC – have been selected as the first recipients of grants from The Red Letter, a campaign to boost the number of women-owned businesses in the Chippewa Valley.

The businesses were chosen from among a pool of 13 applicants who sought $2,000 grants from the new program, which was founded by Eau Claire entrepreneur Becca Cooke, proprietor of Red’s Mercantile, 224 N. Dewey St.

“Thank you to all of the women that spent countless hours … honing your business plan, taking classes to prepare, and putting yourself out there,” Cooke wrote in an email announcing the winners. “We were so impressed by the caliber of applications received.”

Odd Brand Strategy, which was founded by graphic designers Elle McGee and Serena Wagner, is a creative studio that offers branding, illustration, web design, and related services. Melnaturel, founded by Melissa Wilson, creates personal care products such as lotions, toners, and masks, from essential oils and other all-natural ingredients.

Applications were judged by a panel of local businesswomen, including Amy Erickson (Latitude 44 Yoga), Julia Johnson (Jamf), Megan Kremer (The Coffee Grounds), and Sarah Willger (Token Jewelry Designs).

Funds for the grants were raised from the sale of special “Red Letter” items at Red’s – a boutique that carries everything from jewelry and kitchenware to stationary and candles – as well as from several fund-raising events. In addition, Jamf Software co-founder Zach Halmstad matched the grant, allowing the program to select two winners this spring.

The next Red Letter grants will be awarded Nov. 6. To find out more about the program and how you can apply, visit redsmercantile.com.

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.