Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB), an economic and business development organization promoting and supporting Grand Rapids’ Black businesses and entrepreneurs, has created a calendar full of opportunities this November.
On November 9, GRABB began accepting grant applications from Black businesses impacted by the pandemic’s economic downturn. On November 19, the 7th Annual GRABB Black Business Awards will recognize Black businesses, organizations, and activists.
As a grand finale, on November 21, GRABB hosts its 5th Annual #TheShift conference, featuring Dr. Andre M. Perry, author of Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities and Lynn Smith, creator of Buy The Block, a Black-owned crowd-investing platform.
“It’s a one-two punch,” says Jamiel Robinson, founder of GRABB. “Dr. Perry will share about the value of Black lives, Black-owned properties and how to build wealth. Lynn Smith will show us this is how you get the crowd to fund and buy the block.”
Robinson relates that in 1863, Black Americans owned one-half of 1% of the national wealth. Today, they own little more than 1.5%. Those who are familiar with the infamous 2015 Forbes report, The Cities Where African-Americans Are Doing The Best Economically, realize that those numbers are most likely lower in Grand Rapids. While COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on nearly all sectors of the economy, businesses owned by people of color have been especially hard-hit.
Thanks to a $25,000 Comcast grant to GRABB’s Relief and Resilience Fund, GRABB will be able to support some of those businesses here in the Grand Rapids area. Black-owned businesses with fewer than 10 full time employees and $1 million or less in revenue can apply for grants up to $2,500.
“COVID-19 has hit black businesses harder,” Robinsons says. “Typically, Black businesses start up being undercapitalized and under-resourced. That’s a nationwide crisis. The ability for African American businesses to access capital is very difficult. When you have the pandemic on top of that, an undercapitalized position compounds that.”
In addition, Black businesses had difficulties accessing the first round of federal funds providing relief to small businesses because the financial institutions they did business with were not among those chosen to make loans available.
“Early on, our organization made direct contact through relationships we had at [participating] financial institutions and some Black businesses were able to submit applications. It was an uphill battle even to get their applications submitted.”
Up to 15 qualified Black-owned businesses will receive funds. Robinson expects that at least 100 will apply — and is seeking additional funds to make more help available.
“Many of the COVID-19 impacted businesses in Grand Rapids are small family operations that haven’t been successful accessing traditional sources of capital,” Robinson says. “Along with our other program offerings, this support will help Black businesses stay afloat and survive these difficult times while providing some breathing room to refocus and forge forward through this uncertainty.”
For Comcast, it is not only about helping Black businesses, but also about contributing to the success of the Grand Rapids-area economy as a whole.
“Black-owned businesses have always played a vital role in Grand Rapids’ growth and future,” says Jeff Snyder, manager of Government Affairs for Comcast in West Michigan. “During this pandemic, these entrepreneurs provide many of the services and resources that keep the community up and running.”
Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy GRABB