Since the start of the pandemic, TODAY has highlighted small, woman-led businesses around the country that you should know. On Thursday, lifestyle contributor Jill Martin virtually stopped by the 3rd Hour of TODAY to talk about two more businesses: Scout Bags and Black Momma Vodka.
Scout Bags is a business "decades in the making," according to Deb Waterman Johns, who started her career working at Vogue and launched the company in 2004.
"I was on a trip to Milan and I came across a unique fabric bag at a high-end fashion store," she said. Once home, she created an oversized check pattern in five colorways and three different bag styles, which she and her husband took to market in Atlanta.
"We ended up winning all sorts of awards and we've been unstoppable ever since," Johns said. "Scout gives the modern woman of all ages the products they need to contain, organize and carry all the stuff they and their families need to successfully navigate their busy lives."
Now based out of Washington, D.C., Johns leads a team of 30. The company boasts more than 100 original patterns and products, and last year, the brand sold over one million bags.
Equally important to the brand is their philanthropic mission. Johns created the "Go Bo Fund" in honor of her son, Bo, who is now a healthy adult, but was diagnosed with cancer as a child. The fund helps families in similar situations by lessening their financial burden.
Scout Bags continues to grow with big plans in 2021 to release drinkware, beach towels, hats, headbands, bedding and more. TODAY viewers can save an extra 20% and get free shipping on any order over $30 in the next 30 days with the promo code "TODAYSHOW."
Over in Brooklyn, New York, Vanessa Braxton's Black Momma Vodka is rapidly growing and expanding.
Braxton established the brand in 2013 after leaving a career in engineering.
"I wanted to start a spirits and beverage company to leave as a legacy for my children," she said.
Within three years, Braxton opened her own manufacturing facility and started creating loose-leaf teas, CBD teas and organic-flavored agave products in addition to the spirits she was already selling. She also opened her own restaurant, Black Momma Tea & Cafe, where customers can enjoy her unique teas, agave drinks and organic food items.
When the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, Braxton started selling hand sanitizer, adding the desperately needed product to her line in just 10 days.
"When the pandemic hit, I pivoted," Braxton said. "Lending my manufacturing and distilling expertise to quickly produce what was urgently needed for health care workers and first responders was one of the biggest highlights of my company.
"As a Black female entrepreneur, I’ll continue to find ways to make a difference in my community, educate aspiring business owners and teach the importance of building generational wealth for all," Braxton continued.
Braxton's products, available online, are 10% off for viewers using the promo code "TODAY10" for orders placed in the next 30 days.