Claima Stories x 99designs by Vistaprint BIPOC Small Business Grant Recipients

In May 2021, we announced a partnership with 99designs by Vistaprint to award nearly $250,000 in grants to BIPOC small business owners that were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Today, we're happy to share an update with the incredible BIPOC recipients that were selected for these grants, each receiving $15,000 to grow their businesses.

Mariana Sheppard Studio

Mariana Sheppard Studio has been in business for over 10 years and focuses on conceptual, portraiture, and documentary style photography.

“Being a black woman working as a commercial photographer already presented challenges in itself. There’s constant overlook and this feeling of imposter syndrome. Prior to the pandemic, I was considering expanding into a studio to service more commercial clients. But when Covid happened, a lot of the budget my client originally promised disappeared. I went months without revenue for my business. With the grant, I plan to move forward with opening my own studio and breaking barriers in the space for Black woman” - Mariana Sheppard

Learn more at

Hugh's Hot Bowls

Hugh’s Hot Bowls is a black-owned business committed to providing accessible nutritious plant-based meals inspired by Los Angeles street food for the Crenshaw District Community and beyond. Hugh’s Hot Bowls was founded by Hugh Augustine because of his love for community. He started cooking in catering kitchens as a young boy through his mother’s business. His family is committed to creating long lasting delicious recipes with a deeply rooted side of justice.

"Currently Hugh's Hot Bowls is partnered with the Summaeverythang community center in Watts, Ca providing over 600 free meals per month. As business grows we are faced with transportation issues. With the grant money I would buy a work van and have 99Designs redesign the car wrap so that it would also function as a mobile advertisement for my business. Currently I am renting vans or hiring friends to help with hauling produce and catering supplies. Having better transportation for my food would also allow me to bid for bigger contracts which would grow my client list and business.” - Hugh Augustine

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Body Melt

Owner, Brittany is a model turned entrepreneur. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Brittany is a proud Creole from the 7th ward who has created a line of all natural, multi-purpose, ultra-hydrating body creams.

“When I started Body Melt, it was out of necessity for me and folks that look like me. I was having trouble finding body butters that were created sustainably and clean. When 2020 started, I was making plans to expand into national retailers. While the pandemic presented its own challenges, I was also conflicted by my branding and wanting something more modern. With the grant, I want to re-energize my brand through design and take on national retail.” - Brittany Nicholas

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Puurple World Productions

Puurple World is a creative film production studio that provides strategic direction to produce high quality and professional video services. Our work focuses on the art of cinema, which includes: documentaries, short films, music videos, and brand advertisement.

“When the pandemic started, Puurple World productions were completely out of clients overnight. Since starting the business in 2016, I never imagined that one day everything would just come to a halt and it did. For 4 months, my business didn’t bring in any revenue. It was even more difficult because we were starting our first documentary. With this grant, I plan to get my business back moving forward and complete the documentary we set out to create in 2020.” - Nik Popp

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Game Day Sports Camp

Ron and Reesha Howard’s Game Day Sports Camp is the result of not finding a camp for their daughter, to their liking. Their camp has grown beyond their dreams and receives ninety to 120 children every summer.

It’s been a very difficult time for our camp kids during Covid with them having dealt with the trauma of the pandemic and loss of social, athletic and recreational programs we provide. We want to be sure to continue to provide the highest quality of care and activities for our camp families.”

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Classic Man Barber Shop

Full service barbershop that caters to the community. We do everything from color to hot towels to razor shaves. The barbershop is diverse, but most of the patrons are African American and Black.

For the first two years without employees, I struggled to keep the shop open. After finally getting the shop to capacity and seeing the fruits that come from ownership, the pandemic happened.” - Franklin Whatley

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Medicine Collective

Mariah Makalapua is a mother, artist, activist, empath, and the owner and creative director of Medicine Collective, where she practices as an art and tarot therapist, creating a dynamic healing experience for all walks of life. She uses creativity and intuition as tools for cultivating self awareness and empowerment with her clients.

“My kids have watched the process of me growing my business from our work that is intrinsic and culturally relevant to our wellness, as a single mother I'd like them to see this work really thrive, I'd like them to see what bossing up looks like in a sustainable way, and to have the support I need to cultivate more financial security and prosperity in our community. Those are the things I am building and the funds would be utilized to support these goals.”

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Lincoln Barbers

Lincoln Barbers is a latino and locally owned barber shop started by Sean Nieto and Rafael Recendez and have been serving the Santa Monica community for over twenty years. They are one of the only barber shops on the West Side that provide a quality yet affordable priced haircut. Located near Santa Monica High School, they've been the barber shop of choice for young students for years and have watched adolescents grow up to be young businessmen.

Lincoln Barbers, like many salons and barber shops, had to shut down for months at a time due to the pandemic. A sense of the community felt lost as this was a place where people would gather for not only haircuts, but to hold conversations, ask for advice, talk about current events and the Laker and Dodger games. Sean and Rafael had a difficult time telling their staff that they could not cut hair in their shop for an unknown amount of time. Now that salons are finally back it would be of great help to do a rebrand so the community can sense the shop's presence again and feel great to be back in the shop.”

Learn more at Lincoln Barbers

Jeepney NYC

It’s named after the "Jeepney", the WWII jeeps left behind by US occupation. Filipinos took the left-over jeeps chopped them up and tricked them out, creating a vibe, a mode of transport and a symbol that is uniquely Filipino. That is the essence of being of Jeepney and being Filipino - its a vibe, a mode, and a symbol of uniqueness. Jeepney was on the fore-front of popularizing Filipino Food and its first-mover status, awards, and press cemented its cred as pioneers and has inspired chefs and restaurants around the world with it's take on Filipino Food, the Original Kamayan Night, the award-winning burger and Tiki cocktails.

"10 years in operation and in our height exceeding the $1 Million mark. In fact, quarter 1 of 2020 saw a bright future with the highest Q1 we ever experienced, a feat with January February and March notoriously the worst months in the restaurant industry. Then Covid happened. We saw an instantaneous reduction of revenue by 97%. The harrowing days that ensued was not unique in my industry but devastating nonetheless. Businesses failed, friends who suffered and even death. My father died of Covid in December of 2020. The losses are numerically calculatable in real time but beyond value in long term trauma, sadness and potential." - Nicole Ponsea

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Sol Sips

A Plant-Based Restaurant / Goods & Services. They provide nourishing and quality plant based food at their restaurant for dine-in, delivery and take-out. They also package plant-based goods (skin-care, juice cleanses and meal kits) for local delivery and nationwide shipment.

"The feeling of waking up to open Sol Sips everyday through COVID-19 is permanently engrained in my muscle memory. My mind and spirit are still processing the change and the loss while making room for the new beginnings. The first few months were the most challenging- we had to let go of our staff and our revenue dipped 90%. This was a complete contrast to the milestones we had reached as a business. We had just wrapped as a featured restaurant on Oprah’s 2020 Vision tour and received our first Michelin guide review, the future felt bright. Just like the rest of the world we quickly adjusted to the covid-19 regulations and figured out the best way to continue serving our neighbors and stay open for business.” - Francesca Chaney

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VV Patchouli

Owner and founder V.V. Patchouli shapes her brand with the determination to create and sustain her own world, a world where symmetry arises from chaos into timeless designs. The journey to building a sophisticated environmentally-conscious, and innovative company began in 2012, when V.V. began apprenticing with fine leather crafts and furs.

Covid 19 had a large impact on this small leather house as we heavily rely on pre orders to assist with production and overhead cost for the brand. Due to loss of jobs in the Americas and the global economy negatively impacted, we had to push back the Moss Collection + Moss Mini that was set up to launch summer of 2021. In duration of 2020 pandemic, we turned our focus and efforts to actively supporting our community here in Brooklyn and hometown (Minneapolis/Saint Paul) due to murder of George Floyd, BLM movement & pipeline construction over Native lands- we continue to support all while the brand and our community is recovering from loss."

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Sheila the Designer

A unisex line Est in 2010 in CHICAGO. Sheila Rashid's brand has been sold globally and continues to introduce bold luxury wearable art and denim silhouettes that are architectural in design and 3-D influenced into construction. Our movement is to spread love one garment at a time because love heals all.

"Being affected by Covid 19 was a true eye opener to continue to build a brand that can ultimately help black and brown communities with jobs and internships. With being selected, we can continue to employ fellow artists and students to the craft." - Sheila Rashid

Learn more at

Tune in to Claima Stories on Apple Podcasts to learn more about these small businesses in our Community Stories series.

About Claima Stories:

The Claima Stories podcast takes the BIPOC creative community, with a focus on BIPOC youth, behind the scenes of the notoriously guarded creative and sneaker industries, helping them to claim a seat at the table. Co-created Bimma Williams, BJ Frogozo and Adrian Anaya , bringing their diverse backgrounds in the sneaker industry, marketing and music respectively, to join forces in creating an impactful podcast addressing the alarming disparity of BIPOC youth in the sneaker and creative industries.

About 99designs by Vistaprint:

With a worldwide community of more than 150,000 talented freelance designers, 99designs by Vistaprint is the global creative platform that makes it easy for small businesses to work with creative experts and build their brand through custom, memorable design.

About Vistaprint

Vistaprint is the marketing partner to millions of small businesses around the world, empowering each one to live their dreams. For more than 20 years, we have helped small businesses look and feel credible through high-quality marketing products and solutions that include signage, logo apparel, promotional products, face masks, flyers, postcards, business cards, websites and digital marketing. With Vistaprint, small businesses are able to create and customize their marketing with easy-to-use digital tools and design templates, or by receiving expert graphic design support. In 2020, Vistaprint acquired 99designs to expand its design offering via a worldwide community of more than 150,000 talented freelance designers to make it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they love. Vistaprint is focused on making great marketing and design accessible to every small business owner, allowing them to create a cohesive brand image for use in-store, online and on-the-go. To learn more, visit: Vistaprint is a Cimpress company (Nasdaq: CMPR).