In 2021, 330 Billion U.S. dollars were invested in new companies. 2% went to women-owned businesses and .34% went to women of color. This is the historical truth for women in business…an unjust and systematic lack of support for female entrepreneurship. As a female-founded brand, Stacy’s Pita Chips knows this age-old story better than anyone. So, in 2019, they established Stacey’s Rise Project; an initiative focused on developing and supporting female entrepreneurs. To give this project the visibility it demands, they made Rise, a short documentary to encourage women business owners to apply to Stacy’s Rise Project's annual mentorship program. Tapping Nisha Ganatra, an award-winning Canadian-American filmmaker of Indian descent, to direct the film was intentional on every level. Her dedication to representing and amplifying the underrepresented stories of women and immigrants comes from the heart and is clearly present in Rise. This emotionally engaging short film highlights how women's roots – the histories, voices, and fortitude of those who came before – are a rich reserve of resilience that inspires their rise and continued fight for progress.
The strength of this project is built from its amazing partners. Stacy’s teamed up with trailblazers Reese Witherspoon, award-winning filmmaker Nisha Ganatra, and renowned poet Rupi Kaur to craft the powerful voice that drives the film. The goal of Rise was to drive attention to Stacy's Rise Project's invaluable opportunity for funding, mentorship, and community and get more women to apply for these resources. To show their commitment to equal opportunity – in front of and behind the camera – the production company worked with a predominantly female crew in key positions of leadership, including author, poet and performer Rupi Kaur, director Nisha Ganatra, director of photography Emily Topper, and editor Eleanor Infante. In fact, nearly all (92%) of the primary roles in the making of the film were comprised of women.
Perhaps our proudest moment was when the full-length documentary was screened at the Sundance Film Festival. The 2023 "Roots to Rise Market" Sundance activation was an extension of Stacy's commitment to supporting creative, innovative, and visionary women. Visitors at the activation had the opportunity to view the film, as well as enjoy several brand-hosted panels, in partnership with Variety, featuring the creators of the Rise film and women in film and entertainment. The film gave the Stacy’s Rise Project the awareness it deserved, so these female entrepreneurs could be seen and heard.
In total, Rise earned over 2.75 Billion earned media impressions, website traffic to the Rise microsite was up 300% in one month, and was featured in more than 1,400 stories as a result of targeted media outreach. The video was picked up in national outlets including Yahoo! Finance and Market Watch, as well as high-reaching local outlets like the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, and the Chicago Tribune.
The Stacy’s Rise Project received the most applications in the program’s history – 9,000 (up from 8,000 the year prior.) Rise brought further awareness to Stacy's initiative and also helped to educate people on the program's opportunities for entrepreneurs and to date, Stacy’s has given over $1,000,000 to 59 female-founded businesses. But this is not just a donation. This is an ecosystem of change. This is the culmination of incredible female leaders and creatives, each inspirational in their own right. This is how the narrative changes. This is how we all rise…together.
The documentary is continuing to air at popular film festivals throughout 2023, fueling awareness and appreciation of the Stacy’s Rise Project and the remarkable difference the brand’s hallmark CSR initiative has made to the lives of many struggling female founders.