LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — A Lee's Summit business owner was among more than 1,000 women who each recently received a $5,000 grant from a multi-billion dollar company.
The Red Backpack Fund, a partnership between Global Giving and Spanx to help female-owned businesses rebound during the coronavirus pandemic, allowed Kelly Lankford to launch a website for her design studio ahead of the holiday shopping season.
"[It's] such a relief to have that money given to us rather than take it out of our coffers right now," said Lankford, who owns Inspo by KHL Design Studio in downtown Lee's Summit. "Just making sure we are paying our rent and paying our bills, and of course my top priority is making sure I am paying my employees.“
Sara Blakely started the shapewear company Spanx 20 years ago with just $5,000, according to Global Giving CEO Alix Guerrier, and joined forces with Global Giving to make the grants available.
Guerrier said that even though shutdowns and restrictions went into effect in March, that didn't mean all companies were able to shift their business models.
"This is just another example of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic," Guerrier said. "Basically, the little guy is always the one that bears the brunt."
Last November, Lankford opened her Inspo storefront in hopes of inspiring people to design their own space, with her design studio (KHL) in the back in case anyone changed their mind or needed help.
It was just when people began to notice her new store that the pandemic hit, and she said she suddenly had limited ways of reaching customers without an online store.
"It became apparent that you better figure out how to pivot through this and figure out how to adjust your business or you may not survive," said Lankford.
In looking for applicants who support community lead change, Global Giving said Lankford's stood out.
"I think we probably got it because we've had this strong relationship with the University of Central Missouri's Interior design program," Lankford said, "and I counted up how many interns we had and I was shocked that it was like 13 or 14 interns and they've all been women."
While the deadline for entries has passed, Guerrier said the Red Backpack Fund still is open for donations, and if enough money is donated, more grants will be given.
Global Giving also has other ways for donations to be made in Kansas and Missouri.
Any women in need of resources to return to work, can find information on the Women's Employment Network website.
Lankford was among 80,000 applicants for the grant.
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