PepsiCo’s Kent Montgomery Reveals the Company’s Commitment to Support Women and Black Owned Businesses

Pepsi is a co-presenter of Mary J. Blige's "Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit" during Mother's Day weekend in Atlanta.

With an aim to create a space for women to connect, grow, and empower themselves, Mary J. Blige’s Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit will return to Atlanta, GA, for its second year during Mother’s Day Weekend.

For decades, Blige has inspired women from all walks of life, and the festival, named for her song “Strength of a Woman,” embodies the spirit of connectivity Blige brings through her music. Presented in partnership with PepsiCo, the energy was electric during the festival’s inaugural run last year, and Kent Montgomery, senior vice president of industry relations and multicultural development at PepsiCo, says 2023’s festival will be just as dynamic, namely because of its continued commitment to empowering women in business, community, and beyond.

"Part of our big platform within PepsiCo is a strong commitment to women and diversity, not just externally, but also internally,” Montgomery explains.

To reinforce this commitment, PepsiCo has donated $200,000 to local organizations that support opportunities for women. Selected in collaboration with Blige, the organizations empower women in the areas of wellness, technology, finance, and the creative arts and include Silence the Shame, City of Refuge, Right Hand Foundation, and Earth Girl ATL.

To further carry out the shared mission, PepsiCo is also announcing a scholarship with Blige that will be awarded to a Black female student aspiring to or currently attending an HBCU, with the recipient to be announced during the company's HBCU tour in the fall.

“It goes back to how important local support is,” Montgomery says. “People think of PepsiCo as one big conglomerate, but we actually are local. Local drivers, local plants, local people… the Strength of a Woman Festival links back to that idea.”

Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit

PepsiCo Beverages North America

Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit

PepsiCo's popular Dig In program spotlights Atlanta’s female-run, Black-owned restaurants, and is making a significant contribution to the festival's programming pillars for the second year in a row.

“We know restaurateurs, particularly female restaurateurs, are the backbone of the small businesses that are in these communities, so we definitely want to uplift them,” says Montgomery. “Part of our program was to spend over $400 million in Black communities, and Dig In is a big part of that.”

Mary J. Blige

TODAY -- Pictured: Mary J. Blige on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images)

Pepsi & Mary J. Blige Announce HBCU Strength of a Woman Scholarship

Gocha Hawkins, who owns Gocha’s Breakfast Bar, a popular eatery with three physical locations and another one on the way, says she wants to “create a space for connection over good food and drinks and a friendly atmosphere to positively impact the cultural and social landscape of Atlanta.” To that end, she’s excited about Dig In’s commitment to ensuring the continued success of Black female restaurateurs.

“Programs like Pepsi Dig In are essential because they aim to provide long-term support,” she says. “During the pandemic, the community stuck together and supported Black businesses to help get through a very challenging time, but beyond that, support wanes. I was interested in working with Pepsi Dig In because of what they’re doing to address that, including creating opportunities for restaurants like mine to be part of the Strength of a Woman Festival.”

PepsiCo is also utilizing the festival's inspiration and aspirational environment to engage women leaders from across the company and industry. The company is bringing together local female entrepreneurs through its Stacy's Rise Project and Black changemakers through its Doritos SOLID BLACK platform to elevate and celebrate the women who have made an impact internally at the company and externally in the community.

This year, SOLID BLACK will support 16 leaders in the community space who have a unique opportunity to receive a $50,000 grant per person from PepsiCo and leadership skills from the Lilly School of Indiana University.

With PepsiCo’s continued initiatives focused on building Black business and community, partnering with Blige was a no-brainer.

“Mary's a voice,” Montgomery says simply. “And when you think about empowerment, she signifies that.”

For more information about the events and opportunities during the Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit, click here.

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