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Alumna Sisters at Baldwin Richardson Foods Support Students Interested in Entrepreneurship and Food Innovation with $1.5 Million-Plus Gifts Share a Spelman College Press Release

For Immediate Release 

Mashaun D. Simon 
Spelman College 

Baldwin Richardson Foods Scholarship RecipientsATLANTA (October 22, 2018) – 
Two first-year Spelman students are the inaugural recipients of an annual and endowed scholarship funded by a $1.5 million and a $100,000 gift from Baldwin Richardson Foods Co.

Spelman alumnae and sisters, Erin Johnson Tolefree, C’2001, and Cara Johnson Hughes, C’2003, made the gifts on behalf of their family business, Baldwin Richardson Foods. Over a 10-year period, the Baldwin Richardson Annual Scholarship, established at $1.5 Million, will provide a first-year recipient with a full tuition package for their entire Spelman education. An additional gift, Erin Johnson Tolefree, C’2001, and Cara Johnson Hughes, C’2003 established at $100,000, will provide first-year recipients with supplemental tuition. Tolefree, executive vice president for Baldwin Richardson, and Hughes, senior director of sales, majored in economics at Spelman.

“Erin and Cara’s gift of scholarships to Spelman students will be transformational in their pursuit of entrepreneurship. Their generosity expands Spelman’s ability to develop Black women who can take advantage of programs like Spelpreneur, a four-year initiative that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation. We are grateful to these alumnae leaders who recognize the necessity of investing in the education of women who will create and lead innovative businesses across a spectrum of industries,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., noting that Black female-owned businesses are the fastest growing economic force in the U.S., according to Fortune magazine.

The number of Black women-owned businesses grew 67 percent between 2007 and 2012, outpacing the 27 percent growth rate for female-owned businesses, reports the United States Census Bureau. According to The 2018 State of Women-Owned Business Report, while the number of women-owned businesses grew an impressive 58 percent from 2007 to 2018, the number of firms owned by Black women grew by a staggering 164 percent, nearly three times that rate. There are 2.4 million African-American women-owned businesses in 2018, most owned by women ages 35 to 54.

Erin Tolefree Baldwin Richardson Foods GiftHarkening back to their own Spelman experience, Tolefree and Hughes want to support students as future business leaders who will benefit from all the College has to offer. “Spelman has given us so much – beyond the education, a sense of confidence and a support network,” said Tolefree.  “We always said that when we were in a position to give back, we would.”

Leila Njoya, C’2022, a biology major from Woodbury, Minneapolis, is the first recipient of the Baldwin Richardson Foods Annual Scholarship and is grateful for the award. “My college experience has drastically changed for the better. Thanks to this award, I will have the ability to focus completely on my studies and building the foundation for the woman I am destined to become,” she said. “I am extremely thankful to Baldwin Richardson Foods for making such a generous gift to create opportunities from which I and future recipients can greatly benefit.”

Mariah Wolfe, C’2022, an economics major from Chicago is the first recipient of the Erin Johnson Tolefree and Cara Johnson Hughes Endowed Scholarship.

“This scholarship can help me reach heights that I never thought I could,” said Wolfe. “Spelman, this place I love, is equipping me in my future goal of becoming a chief operating officer of a well-known franchise. This scholarship is greatly beneficial in helping me achieve that dream.”

In addition to the scholarship, Nioya and Wolfe will eventually benefit from internships at Baldwin Richardson Foods.

Cara Hughes Baldwin Richardson Foods Gift“We envisioned this scholarship for a young woman who is a foodie at heart – but also an innovator, someone who thinks outside the box,” said Hughes. “We want to give students the opportunity to take an idea all the way from concept to commercial brand.”

About Baldwin Richardson Foods Co.
Baldwin Richardson Foods is a premier supplier of custom developed products and ingredients for the foodservice Consumer Packaged Goods industry. With their 300+ employee base, Baldwin Richardson Foods manufactures and private labels custom food toppings, fillings, sauces and syrups with the highest quality ingredients. Baldwin Richardson Foods serves a premier group of customers, including the largest global CPG and QSR companies.

About Spelman College 
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 51 among all liberal arts colleges and No. 1 among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit



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