Introducing the impressive winners of the Passion Fund—our global grant program designed to support creators, activists and entrepreneurs in taking their passion to the next level.
After months of searching and carefully reviewing submissions from thousands of applicants, Linktree, in partnership with Square, is excited to announce the winners of the 2021 Passion Fund.
We received submissions from more than 90 countries around the globe—from Saint Lucia to Bolivia and Peru. Geography aside, applicants were diverse in their business sectors as well. 1% of applications work in the travel sector, 2% are in hospitality, 2% are creators, 3% are in design, 4% are in tech, 5% are non-profits, 7% are in retail, 9% are in education, 17% are in the health and wellness field, and 28% are from the arts and entertainment sector. More than two thirds of these applicants have already found a way to monetize their passion. Impressive!
Passion Fund applicants were judged on how well their project or idea incorporates five key values: creativity, innovation, vision, adaptability, and personality. With such a high bar set, it was incredibly difficult to make a decision. With help from our esteemed judges Grace Beverley, Karamo Brown, Li Jin, Square’s Lauren Weinberg, and our very own CEO Alex Zaccaria, we have, and are excited to introduce you to the 30 Passion Fund winners below. These winners will receive funds to support their endeavors, with 10 people being granted $20,000 USD, 10 people being awarded $4,000 USD, and 10 people receiving $1,000 USD each.
So, without further ado, meet the inspiring creators who we are excited to help achieve their dreams and goals.
People’s Choice Winner
From the top 30 winners, Linktree shortlisted five applicants for the People’s Choice Award for you to choose from. The people voted for:
Santiago Roa: Founder of Jaguar Siembra, a non-profit foundation project
Colombian-born, Vienna-based creator Santiago Roa is the founder of Jaguar Siembra, a non-profit that works on saving forests through art and works on environmental, social and cultural topics.
Jaguar Siembra is currently supporting 60 indigenous families with their harvest and financing farms through regenerative agriculture to plant trees and recover soil.
Gold Level Winners
Nine passionate winners were granted a grand prize of $20,000 USD to bring their creations to life.
Angela Wachuka: Co-founder of arts organization Book Bunk
Kenyan change-maker Angela Wachuka is spearheading the transformation of public libraries through Book Bunk, which focuses on the reclamation, restoration and revitalization of Nairobi’s most iconic public libraries, for inclusive use.
To date Book Bunk has restored two branches, one of which provided income for 28 residents, while also stamping local ownership on the space.
Jamie Sgarro: Co-founder of nonprofit organization AsylumConnect
New York-based Jamie Sgarro’s passion pursuit is AsylumConnect, an important initiative providing the world’s first web and mobile resource platform designed for LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution.
The free technology instantly matches LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution with independently verified safe legal, medical, mental health and social service providers. It is available in 35 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico.
Eva Uzquiano: Founder of ecological toy maker, EPRUM
Bolivian creator Eva Uzquiano focuses on creating toys made with a conscience. Through EPRUM, Uzquiano’s goal is to encourage children to create new adventures using their imagination with handmade toys that allow them to explore other forms of play.
EPRUM is respectful of the environment, avoids generating waste and uses natural and biodegradable fibers such as cotton, wool and wood. Most of the company’s staff are indigenous women—mothers who support their home through their work at EPRUM.
Priya Goswami: Founder of app Mumkin
Born and raised in India, Pryia Goswami seeks to end gender-based violence and discrimination based on gender and sexuality. Goswami believes that the hardest step for anyone who has undergone any form of violence or discrimination is to open up about their trauma, especially with their families.
As a result she created Mumkin, an AI-driven app that makes difficult conversations possible by providing simulated in-app mock conversations. Currently, Mumkin is available worldwide for survivors of female genital cutting and mutilation. Goswami hopes to further develop modules within Mumkin for survivors of domestic violence and the LGBTQ+ community in South Asia.
Calum Harris: Made By Blitz, plant based food creator
UK-based Calum Harris is passionate about good food. Food that is plant-based, good for the planet, and good for people to eat. Using his online social platforms—where he has currently amassed over 85,000 followers as Made By Blitz—Harris is providing a worldwide resource for plant-based cooking.
Over the next two years Harris aims to collaborate with other big players on YouTube, have content shot professionally and release a proper cookbook.
Denesha Wright: Founder of Wright Dance Studio
In May 2019, Denesha Wright left her regular nine-to-five job to start her own dance studio in Westmoreland, Jamaica. Wright Dance Studio focuses on providing young girls who experience abuse with a safe haven and a chance to pursue their passion.
Wright chose to make dance her livelihood so she could positively impact the community and help young women realize that pursuing their passion is possible.
Nikhil Bora and Sophie Li: Co-founders of app Signhow
Australian accessibility advocates Nikhil Bora and Sophie Li want to forever change the story of deaf people worldwide. As a result, they co-founded Signhow, a global sign dictionary app focused on teaching and interpreting.
The app benefits not only people who are deaf and hard of hearing, but their families, friends, employers, governments, and medical professionals. It also helps those learning sign language to teach deaf kids in schools and become sign language interpreters. Signhow also has potential to reach developing communities that do not have the resources or education to develop and progress their sign language.
Uforo & Eduek Nsentip: Co-founders of Girls’ Community for Change
Nigerian twins and activists Uforo & Eduek Nsentip co-founded Girls’ Community for Change, a project focused on sponsoring girls’ education and teaching them basic life skills such as Adolescent, Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH), self-advocacy skills, security skills and self defense skills (Shotokan Karate).
Girls’ Community for Change focuses on reducing the 3 million out of school girls in Nigeria by sponsoring girls’ education to help them in achieving educational and career goals.
Collette Divitto: Founder of Collettey’s Cookies
Entrepreneur and disability advocate Collette Divito was born with Down syndrome and faced years of rejection from job interviews, repeatedly being told she was not the “right fit.”
A lover of food and baking from a young age, Divito was determined to open her own business, so she decided to start her own cookie company, Collettey’s Cookies. Divito is now able to create jobs for people with disabilities faced with the same struggles she was.
Silver Level Winners
These 10 talented creators have won $4,000 USD each.
Bal Dhital: Co-founder of Borne Clothing
Australian entrepreneur Bal Dhital is the co-founder of Borne Clothing, a fashion label that creates mosquito-repellent clothing and donates half of all profits to help fulfill the dream of a world without mosquito-borne disease.
The clothing is made from soft 100% organic cotton by FairWear Foundation approved manufacturers, and is treated with a mosquito-repellent that doesn’t smell or wash out. The tees also fund mosquito nets for young children to sleep in as well as preventive medications for pregnant women who are vulnerable to disease.
Pearl Ubaru: Founder of SiSTEM Tutoring Agency
After several years working in the education system, Texas-based educator Pearl Ubaru quickly recognized the inequity present in both Title 1 and well-endowed schools. She learned that most of the economically disadvantaged students in Texas were Black or Hispanic, but did not have access to the right guidance or resources.
As a result, Ubaru founded SiSTEM Tutoring Agency, partnering with Houston-based schools and organizations to provide underprivileged, underrepresented students with tutors who double as mentors. Through tutoring and mentorship, whether online or in-person, the student is encouraged to pursue and thrive in any career.
Maimoona Mohammed: Founder of Finllect, credit and financial services platform
Dubai-based creator Maimoona Mohammed is passionate about reducing financial inequality for middle-income underserved minorities and women, while enabling access to financial services to all, so that no one gets left behind.
As a result she built Finllect, an application that enables underserved consumers to build credit and prequalify for financial services using recurring micropayments instead of analyzing traditional financial information. Finllect also offers bite-sized financial content and the tools to empower next-gen consumers to make smart financial choices.
Nkhensani Rikhotso: Plant educator, indoor plant consultant and Reiki healer
Plants have always been a huge part of self-healing for South African plant educator Nkhensani Rikhotso. Sharing plant care tips on social media during COVID-19 lockdown—such as how to care for succulents indoors—enabled her to develop a strong following and launch a business as an interior plant stylist.
Rikhotso’s business benefits people looking to create an oasis in their home and prioritize their mental wellbeing. She has already become a plant ambassador for one of South Africa’s biggest hardware chains, and has just gone into a retail partnership with one of South Africa’s biggest nurseries to stock her plant sprays and two new products that she will be releasing in August this year.
Kelly Belter: Founder of Polite Company Press
Korean illustrator Kelly Belter is the founder of Polite Company Press, an organization that benefits local artists, inspires communal creativity, and runs as a business through printmaking services, workshops and publications.
Polite Company also aims to be an inclusive space for communal creativity. It hosts free workshops for under-represented communities in Seoul—including LGBTQ, BIPOC, and adoptees, for example—and paid workshops or print memberships for anyone interested in printmaking.
Aman Bayatly: Co-founder of ON3 Studio
Aman Bayalty is the co-founder of ON3 Studio, a music-forward collective based in Melbourne that is focused on representing change in the creative industry by providing a creative safe space for people of color.
ON3 Studio’s mission is to be a platform and community that offers creative development opportunities for underrepresented artists, fosters the development of talent, and provides pathways to emerging artists.
Robert Moss: Co-founder of Arctic Ice Project
Non-profit Arctic Ice Project is focused on solving one of climate change’s biggest issues, the loss of annual Arctic sea ice.
Robert Moss and his California-based team are developing a safe, localized technique to enhance the Arctic’s natural ability to reflect solar radiation out of the atmosphere, increase the Earth’s planetary albedo and slow the rate of global warming.
Trina Nicole: Founder of The Curve Catwalk
London-based creator Trina Nicole is the founder of The Curve Catwalk, the UK’s first plus size dance class where “the beat is louder than people’s opinions.”
Nicole is building a platform to revolutionize the ideology that dance is exclusive to one body type. With The Curve Catwalk, her mission is to not only improve the visibility of larger bodies in motion, but also to showcase them in a joyful state.
Rose Nambasa: Creator of sustainable fashion brand Conscious
UK-based creator Rose Nambasa’s passion is Conscious, a sustainable brand that helps students and millennials enjoy sustainable fashion. She wants to start conversations about sustainability and help educate consumers about fashion production.
Nambasa aims to develop a sustainable brand that creates modern, trendy and minimalistic clothing—mainly athleisure wear and tailored clothing.
Vanessa Gill: Founder of Social Cipher
When LA-based Vanessa Gill was diagnosed with autism at age 14, she thought she was broken. After years of being ashamed of who she was, she finally realized that she never needed to be fixed; she just needed different tools to learn and thrive.
So, Gill created Social Cipher to make sure that every young person finds that truth. The company, who’s team is 40% neurodivergent, builds games and software to empower and educate neurodivergent youth and the professionals who work with them for social and emotional success.
Bronze Level Winners
10 inspiring creators were chosen for the bronze prize to win $1,000 USD each.
Crystal Joy: Founder of independent production company Blu Room
Illinois-based creator Crystal Joy’s mission is to build bridges between African Americans and Africans across the continent and diasporas through educative, inspirational, historical, and thrilling storytelling.
Joy founded Blu Room Productions to spark necessary conversations between Africans and African Americans, to discuss the complex history and encourage understanding.
Lourdes Argueta: Founder of Genesis Environmental Education Center
Brazilian environmental advocate Lourdes Argueta’s passion is to implement an international sustainability education program at the Genesis Environmental Education Center, an institution she created in 2008.
The center offers visits, lectures, workshops, projects and programs for educational institutions, businesses and religious institutions. These activities raise awareness, mobilize people in relation to the environment and its problems, and contribute to the development of skills necessary to construct sustainable societies.
Lisa Veregin: Founder of sustainable underwear brand My Higher Frequency
Canadian designer Lisa Veregin is pursuing her dream of scaling her own sustainable fashion brand, starting with My Higher Frequency, a bamboo underwear collection made in Toronto, Canada.
The goal of this project is to empower and nurture women’s bodies and Mother Earth through conscious materials.
Lola Akinmade Akerstrom: Co-founder of travel platform Local Purse
Travel entrepreneur Lola Akinmade Akerstrom is the co-founder of Local Purse, a web-based platform that supports artisans and guides by using live video cultural shopping technology to virtually host travelers around the world.
The beauty of Local Purse is that the customer can see who their money will directly benefit and can forge connections with local guides and artisans.
David Grilli: Founder of social app Storied
Australian health and wellness creator David Grilli is the founder of Storied, a web application that improves senior citizens’ wellbeing in aged care by enabling aged care workers to run relevant, meaningful and most importantly, social, activities.
The key features of Storied include capturing resident’s personal information and interests, and an algorithm that matches this personal information and interests to meet friends.
Rachel Glueck: Co-founder of El Refugio Mezcal
El Refugio is a third-generation Mexican maestro mezcalero (master mezcal maker) that considers itself “alchemists of the agave.” Rachel Glueck’s passion is to share her husband’s indigenous Mexican culture with others, by bottling small-batch mezcals from his home state, Guerrero, and sharing the stories of those indigenous communities who made them.
Through the creation of El Refugio Mezcal, the couple’s goal is to export mezcals to the U.S., and to cultivate a respect for native Mexican peoples using mezcal as a medium.
Ayanna Combs: Founder of online retailer IFUKNO, YOU KNOW
Louisiana-based entrepreneur Ayanna Combs created IFUKNO, YOU KNOW to provide an organic and immersive space to shop Black-owned beauty brands.
Comb’s passion is to celebrate Black entrepreneurs, creatives and the community as a whole while fighting against inequality and inequity.
Pawan Rochwani: Founder of Platform For Artists
Pawan Rochwana has always believed in community learning for creators across India. Since the inception of Platform For Artists in 2017, the organization has worked towards creating an equitable space that enables artists across the country to collaborate and explore their creativity.
With a digital community of 30,000 artists across the country, Platform For Artists aims to bridge gaps and support creators to stand on their own.
Hayley Marsten: Alt-country singer-songwriter
Sharing music is Hayley Marsten’s passion. Whether it be telling stories through music videos or live shows at physical gigs, her songwriting has connected her with a wide range of listeners.
In 2019 Marsten crowdfunded her debut album and toured nationally in Australia. After the tour wrapped, the album was nominated for Alt-Country Album of the Year at the 2020 Golden Guitars and Country Work of the Year at The Queensland Music Awards. Marsten has a new album that she would like the Passion Fund to help her release.
Alistair Bacchetti: President of Handprints e-NABLE Scotland
Biomedical Engineering student Alistair Bacchetti is the president of Handprints e-NABLE Scotland, a student-led society at the University of Glasgow that produces 3D printed prosthetic limbs for individuals with upper limb deficiencies, free of charge and with a strong focus on children.
At Handprints e-NABLE Scotland, the focus is not only on restoring limb functionality, but instilling an inextinguishable sense of confidence and pride in recipients all over the world.
We’re excited to be financially backing this incredible group of inspiring creators. Stay tuned for more news, interviews, and creator profiles in the upcoming weeks.