Microgrants helping Cincinnati's minority-owned businesses survive pandemic

Posted at 5:40 PM, Sep 03, 2020

Adrienne Onley had to rearrange her business model just a few weeks into the life of her flower shop, A Touch of Heaven Floral Shoppe. With financial support from her friends and family, she’d opened it in Mount Healthy on Valentine’s Day — full-service florals for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and more.

It seemed like good timing, then.

By mid-March, with health and safety restrictions limiting the types of businesses that could be open and the types of gatherings that could take place, she was beginning to worry.

“When the shutdown occurred, I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

She got creative by offering drive-up and curbside service, plus contactless delivery. It helped.

But because her business was brand new, she wasn’t eligible for many of the government assistance programs meant to keep small businesses alive through the shutdown.

“I was relying on money from family and friends that had helped me establish the business, and then sales from Valentine’s Day,” she said.

The Collective Empowerment Group stepped in to help. The local organization, which comprises 25 churches and 50 banks and businesses, has made sustaining minority-owned small businesses part of its mission for 2020.

A Touch of Heaven was one of 30 small minority-owned businesses chosen from an applicant pool of over 100 to receive financial help in the form of a $500 microgrant.

“We want to be an equitable city, and having the Collective Empowerment Group be able to have a fund like this makes sure that minority-owned businesses still have a chance to keep their doors open,” said CEG president Paul Booth. “Not just only one more month but to survive past this particular period.”

It couldn’t have arrived at a better time for Onley, who plans to use some of the money for marketing, to draw attention to her shop, and some for materials.

“That will sustain me through the month of September,” she said.

CEG hopes to announce another round of funding soon, to help more small business owners keep their heads above water as the pandemic continues.

“We had 114 applications for our relaunch fund within four days,” Booth said. “So if that doesn't tell you the great need that’s there, I don't know what does.”