Popping & Shopping: Red Letter Grant creates incubator space for female-fronted startups

Lauren Fisher, photos by Taylor Smith

SHOP TO DROP THE GENDER GAP. The Red Letter Grant Incubator, 325 E. Madison St., will host a holiday pop-up shop featuring products by women entrepeneurs through Dec. 27.
SHOP TO DROP THE GENDER GAP. The Red Letter Grant Incubator, 325 E. Madison St., will host a holiday pop-up shop featuring products by women entrepreneurs through Dec. 27.

Nov. 3 marked the grand opening of the new Red Letter Grant Incubator, a space dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs develop their businesses. A collaboration between Moeding Partners (a downtown development firm) and the Red Letter Grant (a soon-to-be nonprofit that aims to increase the number of women in business), the space will host a pop-up shop featuring products by previous grant winners through Dec. 27.

Throughout the holiday season, the pop-up shop will offer products by Giizhig Design Co., Moonrise Aerials, Odd Brand Strategy, Hive and Hollow, and Dotters Books. Items range from fun decorative prints to wild rice and flower arrangements and more. The shop is at 325 E. Madison St. In the former Mayo Clinic Health System pharmacy.

After the pop-up shop, grant winners will be able to apply to take on a year-long lease of the space to sell their wares. The first six months of occupancy will be rent-free, after which the rate will increase incrementally to market value.

“Our downtown is growing and that’s really exciting, but that also means rent prices are on the rise,” said Reba Krueger, Red Letter Grant director. “The incubator space gives a hand-up to women in small business allowing them a grace period to get their feet underneath them and giving them a competitive advantage.”

Sarah Lambert Freeman, owner of Hive and Hollow, is one of the women participating in the pop-up shop. She will offer plant arrangements, wreaths, locally produced artisan goods, and more throughout the holiday season.

“I feel like it’s more exposure for the Red Letter Grant and for my business,” Lambert Freeman said. “I’m located in Menomonie, so it’s good to get a little bit of traffic from Eau Claire and get my stuff out in front of an EC Audience.”

She is thankful for the programs the Red Letter Grant offers to women business owners like her. Receiving support from other women is validating, she said, more so than “going to get a loan from a man in a suit.” Efforts like these also build a sense of community and mutual support in the business arena, she said. “When somebody gives you a leg up, you want to help out.”

Learn more about the Red Letter Grant at redlettergrant.org.  The pop-up shop will be open Wednesday-Saturday 11am-6pm and Sundays 11am-3pm.

Pop Out: Red Letter Grant Fall Winners

The Red Letter Grant announced three Fall grant recipients on Nov. 7. Salt Collective, Zaniya Massage, and Thread Vibez each took home $2,000 in capital for their businesses. Salt Collective is Andrea White’s handmade jewelry company. White specializes in simple designs featuring pieces of carved antler. She believes that jewelry is like salt, in that humans need just a little of it to survive. Carla Cooper is a Licensed Massage Therapist and owner of Zaniya Massage. She believes that massage can bring harmony to the body, improving an individual’s quality of life. Thread Vibez is Erika Johnson and Jen Conaway’s subscription T-shirt company for kids, tweens, and teens.

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