A new grant program to help Black and Hispanic businesses meet the challenges of working during the coronavirus pandemic was announced Wednesday, with $1.2 million available to provide businesses with grants up to $25,000 each.
Coordinated through Greater Winston-Salem Inc., the local chamber of commerce, the Minority Business Enterprise grant program will be managed by the Entrepreneurial Advisory Board, a panel of Black and Latino business leaders in Forsyth County.
Don Flow, a local business leader, said during the Wednesday afternoon announcement that the fund came together after he and Bill McClain, a Black coach and mentor, were talking about the impacts of COVID-19 in the minority business community.
"From the seeds of that conversation have grown this program," Flow said, adding that it is significant that all the members of the advisory panel are Black or Hispanic.
"It is a grant program for African Americans and Hispanics and managed by African Americans and Hispanics," Flow said.
Mark Owens, the president and chief executive of Greater Winston-Salem, said the original goal was to put together a $1 million fund. Now that the fund has raised $1.2 million in commitments, Owens said, "we are not stopping here."
McClain said the program is an example of living out the Gospel commandment to help those who are "the least."
"When we reach out to help those who need help, we are indeed doing for those who need our help," McClain said.
The organizers say the grant program has an application deadline of Oct. 31, with applications made through Greater Winston-Salem at winstonsalem.com/mbegrants.
To be eligible, a business must have Black or Hispanic owners and have a maximum of $1 million in annual gross sales. Businesses have to have been started on or before Jan. 1, 2020, and can range from having one to 25 employees.
The grants can be used for salaries, wages, lease payments, working capital or capital improvements.
Organizers said the fund plans to keep growing and will operate over a five-year period.
Organizers also said the need for the program is bolstered by research showing that 40% of Black-owned businesses have closed nationwide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that two out of three Hispanic business owners believe they will go out of business if current trends continue.
The advisory board is chaired by Jasmine Stover, the chief executive at Thirsty Inc., a nonprofit organization. Other members are Anthony Abney, a business launch specialist at Winston-Salem State University's Small Business and Technology Development Center, Alan Caldwell, retired from Reynolds American as director of community and civic engagement, Brenda Diggs, retired from Wachovia Bank as senior vice president, Dwight Lewis, the associate athletic director at Wake Forest University, Reginald McCaskill, the executive director at Maximum Enterprises Inc., McClain, who is executive director at The Guiding Institute for Developmental Education Inc., Hasani Mitchell, the community manager for ACCESS Center for Equity and Success, Karla Mounts, the founder of Soy Emprendedor, Lorena Munez Holladay, a real estate investor and financial coach, Randon Pender, the president of the Winston-Salem Black Chamber of Commerce, and Allan Younger, the director of the Forsyth Tech Small Business Center.
Donors to the fund include Allegacy Federal Credit Union, The Budd Group, Alan and Lisa Caldwell, Cook Medical, Flow Automotive, Flow Nexus, Front Street Capital, Drew and Kelly Hancock, Javara, Modern Automotive, L. David Mounts, David Neill, Novant Health, the Prim Family Foundation, Reynolds American, Ben C. Sutton Jr., the Truist Charitable Fund, Claire and Randall Tuttle, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Wake Forest University, Wells Fargo, the Wells Fargo Foundation, John Whitaker and the Whitaker Park Development Authority.
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