Stacy’s Pita Chips Partners with Reese Witherspoon to Amplify Female Founders and Announces the 2021 Stacy’s Rise Project Finalists

Oscar-winning actress and producer Witherspoon and the media company she founded, Hello Sunshine, will work with Plano-based Stacy's Pita Chips to help support the visibility and success of female founders. Stacy's is also growing its Rise Project legacy by launching, a nationwide directory of female business founders.

Plano-based Stacy’s Pita Chips is partnering with Oscar-winning actress and producer Reese Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine, the media company she founded, to help lift up female founders nationwide.

The partnership will help spotlight two other announcements by Stacy’s today: the 2021 Stacy’s Rise Project finalists and the launching of, an online directory of female founders across the U.S.

“I truly believe that when one woman rises, we all rise, and that is why my team at Hello Sunshine and I partnered with Stacy’s, beginning with the 2021 Stacy’s Rise Project,” Witherspoon said in a statement.

“This partnership and project are so important because it not only provides essential funding, but also provides unmatched support through mentorship and connections to help female founders take their business to the next level,” she added.

Stacy’s can identify

Stacy’s itself is a female-founded brand, which grew from a single sandwich cart to nationwide distribution. Now owned by Frito-Lay, it’s growing the legacy of Stacy’s Rise, a grant and mentorship program dedicated to help women grow their businesses.

“This is just the beginning of Stacy’s work with Hello Sunshine and Reese to spotlight remarkable founders and continue to build up a community of empowered and supported women,” said Ciara Dilley, Frito-Lay vice president of marketing, in the statement.

Ciara Dilley, Frito-Lay vice president of marketing [Photo: Frito-Lay]

Dallas Innovates wrote about Dilley’s passion for the project last year. We also wrote last year about a local 2020 Rise Project winner, Plano’s Chi Nguyen, founder of Purpose Tea.

Stacy’s Rise Project applications rose nearly 300 percent

2021 is a watershed year for the Rise Project, which has seen a huge surge in interest from female founders nationwide. Stacy’s and its longtime partner Hello Alice received an almost 300 percent increase in grant applications compared to years prior.

Each of this year’s 10 winners will receive a $10,000 grant, mentoring from Frito-Lay and PepsiCo leadership, and the opportunity to participate in a speaker series featuring Frito-Lay leadership and celebrated founders.

The winners will be joining a community of past and future winners, whose support and and connections could further help them achieve their business dreams.

Stacy’s survey of 500 female founders 

This year Stacy’s wanted to better understand the challenges and opportunities faced by female founders. So it commissioned a survey among 500 U.S. women who currently own or plan to own a for-profit business.

A key finding was that unconscious bias, prejudice, and social stereotypes act as hurdles for female founders.

More than a third of those surveyed (34 percent) believe they frequently experience unconscious bias from other people. And 76 percent believe they’ve faced challenges their male counterparts have not.

The survey reinforced the importance of having a support system of female leaders and mentors—more than 45 percent of respondents said this was very important.

FoundedByHer business directory

To help ease the hurdles female founders face—and give them more visibility—Stacy’s has launched the FoundedByHer business directory at The directory offers the ability to search for founders by zip code or business category. Female founders can register their business to be featured in the directory, increasing their opportunities and brand awareness.

To celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on November 19th, Stacy’s is offering the opportunity to support female founders through the FoundedByHer curated gift boxes representing a variety of  founders featured in the directory.

10 Rise Project finalists

Here are the 2021 Stacy’s Rise Project finalists:

  • Sara Fludd, St. Petersburg, Fla., who founded Pop Goes the Waffle, an innovative waffle company dedicated to authentic liege waffle via retail, wholesale and ecommerce.
  • Samotria Holmes, Simpsonville, S.C., who founded Holmes Sweet Home, a specialty food producer that’s hyper focused on ingredient quality and supporting the local economy.
  • Marsha Stephanson, Pflugerville, Texas, who founded Cater to Mom, a monthly postpartum self-care subscription for new and seasoned moms.
  • Sue Kakuk, Minneapolis, Minn., who founded Kakookies, delicious grab-n-go cookies made with real food ingredients and plant-based protein providing the nutrition of energy bars with the deliciousness and comfort of a cookie.
  • Jocelyn Ramirez, Los Angeles, Calif., who founded Todo Verde, a plant-based Mexican food business based out of East Los Angeles that’s creating culturally relevant dishes.
  • Adrienne Walker, Capitol Heights, Md., who founded BlueHenry LLC, a manufacturer of quality all-natural beverage garnishes. They produce dehydrated fruit, simple syrups, and rimming salts and sugars predominantly used to amplify craft cocktails.
  • Amber Balakian, Reedley, Calif., who founded Balakian Farms, a manufacturer of fruit and vegetable CPG products. They currently produce Organic Blended Heirloom Tomatoes.
  • Alberta Liao, Millbrae, Calif., who founded Jinka, the first vegan tuna spread product in the refrigerated section with a goal to provide a clean, healthy, sustainable, and delicious tuna alternative to people who are looking to incorporate more plant-based foods in their diet.
  • Julie Butcher, Estero, Fla., who founded The Vegan Knife, a company that offers a line of allergy friendly and vegan cupcake/cakes and donut mixes. All of their baking mixes are gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, nut free, and vegan.
  • Sajani Amarasiri, San Francisco, Calif., who founded Kola Goodies Inc., which makes botanical-rich superfood latte blends to boost energy, mood, immunity, and well-being. Made with ingredients sourced directly from South Asian farmer collectives.


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