Capital is one of the greatest needs of all small business owners, especially entrepreneurs of color. Borrowing is not always the optimal way to finance your business. Loans must be repaid and depending on the interest rate and maturity, debt may not be the best way to sustain business or fuel growth. In the wake of COVID-19, many companies and business support organizations have developed cash programs to help small businesses survive and recover.
Cash grants, which can give businesses some breathing room and money to invest, can be a viable alternative to a loan, and can often be what small businesses need to stabilize in the wake of COVID-19 and fuel their growth .
While grants can be the source of flexible capital, finding them can be challenging. There are important lessons to be learned from the work of private companies and organizations that provide and continue to support small businesses on the ground.
In late March, PepsiCo, Inc . launched Owned by Jefa (meaning “Latin Boss Owned”) to provide small Latina-owned food and beverage businesses with access to personalized business-building support services. This program is run by PepsiCo’s Together we grow – “Together We Grow” program – a $50 million platform that will provide short- and long-term support for Spanish small businesses, especially restaurants, bodegas and carnicerías, over the next five years.
“We know that small business owners in Latina are a powerful economic force and that they are setting up their own businesses at six times the national average. Unfortunately, with a combination of the pandemic and existing systemic and cultural barriers, they have faced disproportionate challenges,” said Esperanza Teasdale, Vice President & General Manager of the Hispanic Business Unit for PepsiCo Beverages North America.
As part of Jefa-Owned, participants are encouraged to sign up for the Juntos Crecemos Hispanic Digital & Delivery program, an eight-week personalized program that provides expert advice on delivery logistics, technology, marketing and search engine optimization. Participants receive one-on-one coaching and guidance on their unique business challenges. Latina business owners can apply at: Pepsicojuntoscrecemos.com/jefaowned. Like with grantees via Together we grow PepsiCo wants to build a lifelong relationship with the company.
“We know these people one on one. We know their stories. We know where they come from. We know what their passions are. Those relationships last a lifetime,” Teasdale says.
PepsiCo isn’t alone in supporting small businesses. Earlier this year, Reimagine launched Main Street Backing Black Business: Small Business Grants, providing $2 million in cash grants to more than 200 black female small business owners. This effort, in partnership with Black Girl Ventures, US Black Chambers, Inc., Walker’s Legacy and 10 other leading organizations across the country serving black women entrepreneurs, provided funding to entrepreneurs ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.
Applications will open in July for a small business grant program owned by Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), presented by the National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (National ACE) and Reimagine Main Street. Since the start of the pandemic, National ACE has been involved in several grant programs that provide vital funding to small AAPI businesses across the country.
“Over the past two years, the AAPI community has experienced both the economic impact of Covid-19 and an increase in hate crime. We are committed to doing everything we can to help AAPI-owned companies not only recover from the pandemic, but thrive in today’s world and economy,” said National ACE Chief Executive Officer & President, Chiling Tong .
In addition, there are five additional grant programs that are currently or will be available soon.
- NASE Growth Grants: The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) offers $4,000 growth grants for entrepreneurs to help grow their businesses.
- Comcast RISE: This initiative provides growth subsidies to women-owned businesses and businesses in underserved communities. Comcast RISE also offers consulting, media promotion and technology support.
- State Farm LISCState Farm partners with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to support businesses in 12 metropolitan areas including Atlanta, the Bay Area, Central Illinois, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, the Twin Cities, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Puget Sound.
- Do You Fellowship from Digitalundivided: The Do You Fellowship provides a $5,000 cash grant for promising, innovative black and Latina female entrepreneurs, along with professional development and access to exclusive mentorship and resources.
- Fast Break for Women Owned Businesses: Fast Break, a partnership between LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League, offers $10,000 grants and free LegalZoom services.
Access to capital remains one of the biggest challenges small businesses face, and there is no single solution that solves this limitation. However, many larger companies and organizations across the country not only want to boost small businesses, but also build long-lasting relationships with them. Entrepreneurs should keep their eyes peeled for grants that can support and grow their business.