This sounded like a godsend to a business struggling during lockdown.
An organisation called Women of the City was offering grants for “branding, digital marketing, web design, PR and more!”
Sometimes its social media posts were aimed at any business run by women, while other times it wrote: “We will be empowering black-owned businesses with grants of up to £500.”
One freelance writer hit by cancelled contracts was delighted when her application was successful.
“There are always ups and downs, but this is the worst I’ve ever seen it – I am completely out of work,” she said.
“The grant would give me some cash to build a completely new website.
“I was overjoyed that someone might help me out of the hole I was in.”
There was a catch. The grant from Women of the City was not cash, but a voucher that could be spent with a web-design outfit called Revolt.
It did not cover the whole invoice from Revolt, so the writer, who does not want to be named, ended up paying £750 by bank transfer.
Revolt claimed that its track record included the launch of a London fashion store with supermodels including Cara Delevingne, and collaborating in a charity T-shirt design with artist Damien Hirst.
Instead of replying, Revolt deleted my questions.
So I asked again, and now its Instagram account has been suspended.
That was not all that was odd. The invoice sent by Revolt to the freelance writer came with no address or company registration details.
But a search revealed who registered thisisrevolt.com – none other than Women of the City.
So are its “grants” nothing more than a ruse to get people to pay its sister outfit?
According to details from Companies House, Women of the City has a single director, 28-year-old Anais Bienvenu.
Her LinkedIn account however makes no mention of her directorship, describing her in more lowly terms as assistant to Phadria Prendergast, “editor in chief” of its digital magazine.
This grand title suggests that Phadria has a distinguished career in journalism, but her LinkedIn profile reveals that she previously worked at a London waste management company, and before that was an assistant at a clothes shop.
I’ve put a string of queries to Women of the City, including asking who funds its supposed grants, whether it refers applicants to any businesses other than Revolt, why the “terms and conditions” button on its website doesn’t work, and whether it can prove it has the claimed “unprecedented access to female CEOs”.
It hasn’t replied.
I did hear back from Revolt, though account director Samson Goodness would not give me its company details or provide evidence of working with Cara Delevingne or Damien Hirst.
“We are a growing business, our senior team is made up of over 14 years of experiences and achievements,” she said.
“Evidence of our work and portfolio is always shared with clients.”
The freelance writer I spoke to was scathing about the new business logo she received from Revolt, saying: “I’m no designer but even I could have knocked that together in 10 minutes.”
She didn’t wait to see what any new website design might look like and complained to her bank, which refunded the £750 she’d paid.