The West Michigan branch of the Small Business Development Center hosted a webinar highlighting local resources for Black-owned businesses on Tuesday. Speakers at the event included members from local organizations focused on providing Black business owners with advice and resources they can use to grow and sustain their businesses.
The webinar covered many resources from organizations like Start Garden, S.C.O.R.E, Rende Progress Capital (RPC) and the U.S Small Business Association that all have programs specifically geared towards Black business owners. These resources aren’t just for people that are new to the business world, either. Experienced Black business owners can also take advantage of programs to help with finances, promoting their business and other needs.
Kevin Davis, Opportunity and Lending Officer for RPC, was one of the speakers at Tuesday’s webinar. He spoke about what kinds of resources exist around Grand Rapids for Black business owners.
“Michigan Women Forward is a great entity; they have a statewide reach,” Davis said. “Start Garden is another great resource to be aware of that helps businesses that are just getting started.”
Michigan Women Forward provides many services to business owners, including loans and exposure. They also offer funding opportunities and connections to advisors and mentors through the WomanUp & Pitch Business Plan and Pitch Competition.
Start Garden has some unique offerings that new businesses can utilize, such as a workspace for business startups to work on their ideas. Start Garden also hosts events that cover useful information for business owners. One of those events, 5×5 Night, allows businesses to pitch their ideas for the chance to win a $5000 investment from Start Garden.
Davis also discussed what RPC does to help bolster Black business around West Michigan.
“RPC is the nation’s only racial equity-based lender specifically and only geared towards helping small businesses of color,” Davis said. “So we look to help not only in the technical assistance aspect, and that is the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of how to start, build and run a business, but also the capital end in helping folks get the money they need in order to be able to grow, sustain, or take their business to the next level.”
Jamiel Robinson, Founder and CEO of Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB), also spoke during the webinar about what kinds of resources are available through his organization and the community engagement they provide.
“GRABB works closely with entrepreneurs at various stages in their entrepreneurial journey with the goal to enhance and expand the Black business community,” Robinson said. “We believe that creating vibrant business districts anchored by Black businesses is vital in raising the quality of life for families in economically depressed predominantly Black neighborhoods in Metro Grand Rapids and beyond.”
GRABB provides workspaces, business education and promotion, community engagement opportunities, and capacity building for Black business owners in the Grand Rapids area. Their capacity building services assist business owners with scaling their operations upwards to be able to take on larger projects.
One of GRABB’s programs that was highlighted during the webinar is the “Grab Mob” which aims to help local businesses through community engagement. This program and community engagement, in general, has become more important as many Black businesses are being forced to close their doors as the COVID-19 pandemic has persisted.
“A grab mob is a targeted spending day where we target different Black businesses across the community in the effort to support them,” Robinson said. “For example, Mosby’s Popcorn is open 11-7 so on this date, at this time, we want 100% of who signs up to go and buy some popcorn, buy whatever they can buy, order it for their office, whatever, just spend some money at Mosby’s Popcorn.”
With close to 40% of all Black-owned businesses being forced to close their doors between March and late April of last year, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses closing, it is more important than ever to be aware of resources that can help keep local Black businesses afloat.
More resources, events and online webinars can be found at www.sbdcmichigan.org.