Since its inception eight years ago, Dress It Up Dressing has prospered, with founder Sophia Maroon meeting every challenge head on. With all the obstacles that a female-owned small business could face, Maroon never imagined a global pandemic
would be the thing that threatened the company’s future.
In February, Dress It Up Dressing launched its single serving packets, targeted specifically for the grab-and-go lifestyle, which came to a screeching halt in a matter of weeks.
“Ninety-five percent of our sales were from schools, institutions and salad bars in every Whole Foods in the mid-Atlantic, and all of them closed down,” says Maroon. “We had invested a fortune and suddenly had no customers.”
Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Maroon decided to partner with local nonprofits, including Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen and DC Central Kitchen as well as DC Public Schools, to provide healthy meals to those in need.
By donating the dressing packets or selling them at steeply discounted prices, the Bethesda-based company has provided over 25,000 meals for children, the elderly and first responders.
“We weren’t making money, but we were still making a difference,” says Maroon.
But Dress It Up Dressing couldn’t survive on charitable giving alone. On a whim Maroon applied for Stacy’s Rise Project, an initiative started by Stacy’s Pita Chips and PepsiCo dedicated to empowering and supporting female-founded businesses.
Winners would receive a grant of $10,000, as well as mentoring and support from Stacy’s, Frito-Lay and PepsiCo executives.
Maroon was at home, running the company from her living room, when she got the call that she was one of 15 businesses out of 1,600 applicants to win a grant.
“My kids just heard me screaming and crying,” Maroon recalls with a laugh. “I don’t think Stacy’s realized how incredible it was for them to recognize what we’d done and offer us a ladder out of this pit.”
Each winning business was connected with two PepsiCo employees who would best fit their needs, and though the grant was a significant financial help, Maroon says she’s benefited most from the executive mentorship she’s received.
“I’m working with two incredible women in sales who have experience with startups and can connect me with others who can help my company,” says Maroon.
What’s more, the winners are separated into peer groups that have weekly topical webinars on everything from ecommerce and diversity to sales and mental health.
“None of us are in competition with one another. We come together to bounce ideas off of one another, give advice and just be there for each other,” says Maroon. “Stacy’s Rise has given us a community of people who are in the same boat and can support one another.”
A version of this story appeared in the October-November 2020 issue of Montgomery Magazine.