For one entrepreneur, Gabrielle Union’s gift of a financial boost came just a year after their luxury skincare brand was on the verge of closing down.

According to a press release, Union has blessed three Black women-owned businesses that have been historically blocked from “capital, expertise, and opportunities” with a total of $75,000 in grant awards. The inaugural Lift As We Climb grant initiative was offered through her haircare brand Flawless by Gabrielle Union.

The qualification for businesses interested in applying for the grant and mentorship was to create a one-minute video and a brand deck.

Union partnered with Larry Sims, co-founder of Flawless by Gabrielle Union; Jacqueline Jones, head of strategic partnerships for LinkedIn’s global diversity, inclusion, and belonging team; B. Pagels-Minor, founder of DVRGNT Ventures; and Antoine Gregory, founder of Black Fashion Fair, as judges to narrow down 500 submissions to six finalists who would advance to the virtual pitch competition.

“We were so thrilled to see the response to the initiative,” Union said in a news release. “We saw so much amazing talent and entrepreneurial spirit throughout the process, so we are excited to be able to shine a much-needed light on this success.”

From the pitch competition, finalists were announced within three qualifying categories.

Fashion Category Recipient

Founder: Desyree Thomas

Business: Todd Patrick

Location: Atlanta, GA


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by TODD PATRICK (

Skincare Category Recipient

Founder: Najah Elessie

Business: O’Dara Exotic Skincare

Location: Garden Grove, CA


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by O’DARA EXOTIC SKINCARE (@odaraskin)

Haircare Accessory Category Recipient

Founder: Stephanie Louis

Business: Sotro

Location: Brooklyn, NY

On Instagram, Elessie opened up about the struggles of running her luxury skincare brand, reflecting on how she was on the verge of discontinuing her business in 2022.

“This time last year I posted on my story that I was going to discontinue my skincare brand because I didn’t didn’t have enough support,” she wrote. “Friends will support celebrities before they support you. Family will have their hand out but won’t offer to help. Most people see my page and think ‘she doesn’t need my sale’. But the truth is EVERY entrepreneur needs support. We rely on community to thrive. We truly do have to lift as we climb! I’ve been an entrepreneur for the last 20 years and it’s been incredibly difficult at times. It gets lonely and frustrating. But one thing about the way my God is set up, HE WILL affirm you. He gives exceedingly above what I could imagine. I’m so glad I didn’t give up.”

Elessie hopes to use the grant funds from Lift As We Climb to open a spa that supports people with their mental health.

“It’s been my dream for years to open a luxury spa to contribute to mental health and self care. And it’s finally coming to fruition little by little,” Elessie expressed. “Thank you @flawlessbygu and @gabunion by for believing in me and my brand and making me a recipient of the Lift as We Climb Grant. Thank you to everyone that has helped me get this far. You know who you are and I love you!!! I will make y’all so proud.”

Sims shared in the release, “It is an honor to be able to give back to our community of talented, Black entrepreneurs. This is just the start of the many ways in which Flawless by Gabrielle Union hopes to uplift Black voices and we can’t wait to watch these businesses flourish.”