Urban League, city announce grants for small minority-owned businesses

Posted at 5:28 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 17:28:57-05

CINCINNATI — Certain minority-owned small businesses can apply for a new grant to cushion the financial blow caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Resiliency Fund offers grants that businesses will not have to repay ranging from $1,000 to $15,000 for small minority-owned businesses devastated by the pandemic.

“We want to reach small Black and brown minority-owned business in Cincinnati that are mom-and-pop establishments, with our hyper focus on businesses with revenue of $100,000 or less,” said Eddie Koen, executive director of Urban League of Greater Southwest Ohio. “GCMI is a great partner for us in that.”

The fund was created by the Business Development & Entrepreneurship division of Urban League of Greater Southwest Ohio, in cooperation with the City of Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative. The city of Cincinnati is providing funding for the effort.

Koen said the initiative came about last summer when he met with Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to discuss how the city could help minority-owned businesses during the pandemic. The Resiliency Fund has been months in the making, but the funds are designed to help businesses long after the pandemic by giving them a small financial break right now, said Sheila Mixon, senior vice president of business development and entrepreneurship for the Urban League.

"If your stores are still open and you're getting one sale, feel good about that. Because you're still there," Mixon said. "So let us help you think through what your next steps should be to grow your business. Because this isn't a lot of money, but it's a little bit to kind of help give you a little breathing room."

A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that 41% of Black-owned businesses and 32% of Hispanic-owned businesses shut down between February and April of 2020, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses.

"In the best of times, Black and brown businesses have a hard time, but you can imagine how devastating it was last year coming into this year," Mixon said.

The Resiliency Fund is a three-tiered program that will be rolled out each month through May, with businesses able to reapply if they don’t receive grants at first.

Tier 1, which launched Thursday afternoon, is designed to support minority businesses that need help stabilizing or addressing an immediate hardship in their business. Tier 1 will include grants between $1,000 and $2,500 and is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tier 2 will include grants up to $10,000. Recipients are randomly selected among qualified applicants. Tier 3 will include 15 grants up to $15,000 -- awardees are also randomly selected among qualified applicants.

Mixon said businesses that do not meet the grant requirements should still apply to get connected with free business strategists.

"We're able to connect them with a business adviser associated with our small business development center that provides coaching and counseling," Mixon said. "If someone was trying to get a marketing plan, instead of paying for it, we can refer them to get the coaching they need to pull that plan together."

You can learn more about the grants and how to apply here.