In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uptick of Black Lives Matter protests, NBA guard Jrue Holiday and his wife Lauren wanted to help people of color. They decided to use the remainder of Jrue’s 2020 salary to help Black and Brown businesses in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Milwaukee. This was the inception of the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Fund (JLHF).
“I feel like that’s what 2020 started was this big dialogue and conversation about what’s best for our country and our people and we can all better each other,” Jrue said.
Along with giving the businesses funding, JLHF provides business owners with a 16-week training along with mentorship from the organizations FundBlackFounders and The Kinship Advisors.
The fund has helped several businesses in the Los Angeles area, including Maddy Bear Bakes, CrossFitness and Boys2Gentlemen.
Maddy Bear Bakes
Maddy Bear Bakes is a business that specializes in creating cookies that are dairy-free, vegan, and gluten-free. The business is run by Mariah and Maddy Williams, with Mariah managing the finances and website while Maddy handles the baking. At the age of nine, Maddy was diagnosed with a milk allergy; she wants to make cookies that people with allergic or dietary restrictions could enjoy.
Maddy Bear Bakes has a myriad of unique cookie flavors, including s’mores and Earl Grey Lavender. They even have cookies that are the flavor of different types of cereal.
“She loves the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, so she was thinking how could we make that into a cookie,” Mariah said. “We’re always trying to find new ways to make delicious cookies.”
This year, they became a Black Plate Award finalist. Maddy Bear Bakes also began to lease an industrial kitchen space. Maddy has a passion for baking; as a sports fan, the JLHF gives her confidence.
“I like it a lot because it helped my dreams come true,” Maddy said.
Physical and spiritual wellness are the main priorities of Cross Fitness. The brand offers physical training, athletic apparel, and prayer to their customers. The founders, husband-and-wife duo Darnell and Dominique Gant, both have strong athletic backgrounds and intersect their Christian beliefs with their athleticism.
“I was always taught to see the light in anything that I do and anything that we do is supposed to exemplify God … it was always trying to find a balance,” Darnell said. “And for my wife, especially when she brought up this idea, I thought it was great because this is an even bigger and better way to keep that balance.”
Creating Cross Fitness required faith and hard work. Dominique worked ardently to create the company website women’s apparel while Darnell focused on unisex apparel. Along with selling affordable exercise wear, customers can also submit prayer request on their website.
After enduring the challenges of creating the business, Darnell and Dominique appreciates all the amenities that the JLHF provides.
“That’s why we’re so grateful for the JLH is because not just the funding, but it’s what they represent,” Dominique said. “They actually want to get to know your business, what it’s about, how to make it better and get you connected to the right people to make your business flourish.”
Boys 2 Gentleman
After working for the Los Angeles Police Department for 13 years, Keith Linton quit his job to further help young male students in the Watts area with Boys 2 Gentleman. The organization offers a variety of programing to 26 schools. Programming includes, reading comprehension, leadership, and social-emotional learning. Linton also enjoys teaching youth how to tie a tie and how to be financially responsible.
“I’m teaching fourth, fifth, [and] sixth graders how to invest in fake stocks and bonds, but by the end of the curriculum, they really know what it is to lose money,” Linton said. “That’s important to me because I did not start investing in stocks until my late 30s.”
During the pandemic, Linton published the books “Little Relentless Ones” and “Determined Survivors” which features the written work of students. Linton has been working 20 hours daily to keep the organization afloat, the JLHF helps him with the marketing and finances of Boys 2 Gentleman.
“For us to get free branding, and marketing, free accounting help, free software, free internet design for our websites …that’s priceless,” Linton said. “I’ve never dealt with two people with you and his wife that are going beyond to invest in each non-profit and for-profit.”
The JLHF has help several other Los Angeles businesses, including Pucker Up Lemonade, Prosperity Market, the Mentership, and the Confess Project. To learn more about JLHF, visit https://www.jlhfund.org/