The Soroptimist International of Vacaville handed out a total of $14,000 in grants to female business owners in Vacaville who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in a virtual ceremony held this week. 18 women received the award as part of the Soroptimist Means Business women-owned and women-led grant.

“This grant was about women investing in women,” says Lisa Hilas of the Soroptimist Club of Vacaville. Hilas was the initiator of the grant after hearing about the struggles her female business owners were going through because of the shut-downs. “After my pilates studio closed down, I found Ebb and Flow Yoga Studio. They managed to transition from in-person to virtual classes. I was talking with the owner, Heidi Rydman, and she mentioned how she was struggling with keeping both employees and customers. That’s where my idea for the grant came from.”

Hilas took the idea to the Soroptimist club who immediately jumped on board. Soroptimist International’s goal is to help women and girls achieve economic growth and social development. They questioned what women in business have been going through. 

Last year, an annual Women in the Workplace study from LeanIn.org and consulting firm McKinsey & Company served over 12 million employees and found out that 1 in 4 women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of the impacts of COVID-19. “Women, at higher rates than men, are being economically devastated because they have to leave the workforce,” says Hilas. “They have to put a pause on their careers because they have to make up for childcare or become a homeschool teacher.” She knew female business owners in Vacaville needed help.

Soroptimist International of Vacaville began selling sponsorships for the grant during 2020s Giving Tuesday. What started at an initial $1000 grant jumped to $7500, which the Soroptimist club matched.

Through Facebook, the club asked locals to nominate female business owners in Vacaville. They boosted their posts to create more engagement. 

“I heard from other people in the community, people that I know noticed it on Facebook and were purposely going to the businesses downtown because of the effort that was being made to support these women,” said Soroptimist club member Clara Oakes during the virtual event.

The nomination process resulted in 21 nominees, and 18 grants awarded. The grants were awarded based on financial need, the business’s impact on the community, and the number of its female employees. Short profiles on each nominee are on the Soroptimist International of Vacaville’s Facebook page.

The 18 winners are:

Tammy Anderson of Anderson Family Catering (1286 Callen St.)

Andrea “Drea” Cabillo of Essenza Salon (639 Elmira Road)

Lindsey Chelini of Backdoor Bistro (11 Town Square Plaza)

Alexandra Christensen of Vacaville’s Imagine That! (848 B. Alamo Drive)

Maria Collins of The Baby Shop (860 Alamo Drive)

Fearon Deweese of Hella Shirt Co. (Online, www.hellashirtco.com)

Nicole Fahey of True Roots Juice and Eats (374 Merchant St.)

Rachel Felt of Mom Strong Fitness (637 Merchant St.)

Jema Hagerman of Merchant & Main (349 Merchant St.)

Cassandra Kamakeeaina of the Royal School of Ballet (409 Main St.)

Siobhan Magee and Catherine Owen of Heritage House Cafe (303 Merchant St.)

Martha Meza of Aqua Hair Salon (1021 Hume Way, Suite E)

Heidi Rydman of Ebb & Flow Yoga Studio (417 Williams St.)

Fatena “Fae” Salfiti of Bliss Urban Arts Center (3777 Vaca Valley Parkway)

Marianna Schivonne of La Borgata Italian Deli (317 Main St)

Erica Serface of Erica Marie’s Catering (819 Davis St.)

Sarah Stetson of Stetson Academy (390 E Monte Vista Avenue)

Ashley Tapp of Rise and Redemption (330 Merchant St.)

Others nominees include:

Amanda Hoover of Pits R’ Us All Breed Rescue & Adoptions (Online, www.pitsrus.org)

Letitia Shaw and Michelle Trippi of Y2 Creative Solutions (Online, www.y2creativesolutions.com)

Antionette Staniewicz of the Wild West Film Festival (Online, www.wildwestfilmfestival.com)

The sponsors for Soroptimist Means Business include I-80 Forklift, Gourmet Grazers, Solano Small Business Development Center, Beth Rowe of Edward Jones, First Northern Bank, Budget Blinds, Swank Construction, Cal Inc., All Size Flooring, Corner Stone Assisted Living Community, Soroptimist International of Vacaville Twilight, Northern California NeuroHealth, Law Office of Yvonne F. Thrasher, and Office of Assemblymember Jim Frazier District 11. Frazier was also the Keynote Speaker of the event.

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