Owning and running a business is not easy and if you are a black entrepreneur, the challenge of funding can be downright overwhelming. In a perfect world, free from racial biases, a black–owned business might be able to acquire the capital it needs by merely selling its services or products for profit. The reality though is not so straightforward. In business, as it’s often said, you have to spend money to make money and if we really want to show up for black businesses, it is not enough to wax political on the issue. We need to take concrete steps if we are to really ease the unfair burden of business participation on the black race and balance the scale between black entrepreneurs and their white counterparts.
If you are an entrepreneur regardless of your race, then you already know how difficult it is to raise money for your business. With the additional challenges created by decades of racial profiling, police brutality against blacks and the current pandemic, things are even more dire for black-owned businesses. I have always held that economic emancipation of black people is the only truly sustainable way to create the diversity we need in various sectors and industries.
So with that said, here is a list of seven funds and grants available to black entrepreneurs and business owners.
As the economic impacts of COVID-19 become clearer each day, Facebook by way of a response, has set up a $100m grant – in cash and Facebook ad credits – for small businesses. Under this commitment, Facebook has also launched its Small Business Grants for Black-Owned Businesses. According to the social media tech giant this program is intended to keep the small business workforce going strong, help with rent or other operational costs and help businesses connect with more customers while supporting the progress of the local communities where these businesses operate.
The test for eligibility is as follows:
- that the business applying for this grant has to be a registered majority Black-owned for-profit business;
- it must have between one and 50 employees;
- must have been operating as a business for a minimum of one year;
- must have experienced challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- the business owner must have plans to use the grant funds to support the business and their community.
Applications for this grant are currently open and business owners who meet eligibility criteria can apply here.
Bumble, a dating site that set itself apart from its competition by ensuring that women were the only ones allowed to make the first-moves in the heterosexual dating process, has partnered up with AI-powered virtual startup accelerator Hello Alice to launch the Bumble Fund Application to support and empower women entrepreneurs.
This fund is targeted at empowering women of diverse backgrounds and experiences while simultaneously helping them with their funding needs. In addition, everyone who applies gets peer support from fellow business owners who are going through the same challenges along with business advice from expert mentors and investors. Successful applicants will also get educational resources on how to launch their business, grow it, find the right funding opportunities (both online and locally), have the opportunity to attend and learn from hosted events, gain business support and much more.
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The fund focuses on early-stage investments with an average of $25-50K offered, depending on the requirements of the business. To apply, click here.
US telecom giant Verizon has set up a recovery fund for small businesses. At the early stages of the pandemic, Verizon made a US$7.25 million investment in non-profit social enterprise platform to launch the Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund.
According to Verizon’s website, the Small Business Recovery Fund is focused on small businesses, particularly in historically underserved communities hit hard by the pandemic. The successful applicants are given grants of $10,000 and over 400 small businesses have already received grants. 87 percent of those small business grantees are minority-owned (including 46% by African Americans),
You can visit the website here to learn more.
Now, this is not a grant in itself but the giver of grants. An agency of the Department of Commerce, The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), as its name suggests provides support for minority-owned businesses across the United States. The Agency provides targeted grants and loan programs such as Minority Business Enterprise Inner City Innovation Hub Grant, the Entrepreneurship Education Program for Formerly Incarcerated Persons Grant, the Enterprising Women of Color Grant.
You can check out all the grants and loans listed with MBDA here.
Venture firm SoGal was created to bridge the gap between women and venture capital funding and according to them, black women entrepreneurs receive less than 0.5% of venture capital funding. As part of their mission to tackle the systemic discrimination within Silicon Valley and the broader VC ecosystem, they’ve set up the Black Founder Startup Grant in partnership with Winky Lux, bluemercury, twelveNYC, Lively, and other sponsors.
The SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant aims to increase the presence of black women in the world of business and it provides several $5k and $10k cash grants. Applications are on a continuous basis and successful applicants are chosen at random. You can apply here.
6. Hello Alice
AI powered virtual business accelerator Hello Alice has also set up a rolling fund for Black-owned businesses affected by the pandemic. The fund opened in March and is supported by their partners Silicon Valley Bank, eBay Foundation, and UBS. The fund has received more than 95,000 applications from every sector in all the states of the US. While applications are not currently open, it is expected to continue so it’s worthwhile submitting an application (click here to apply). Hello Alice is transparent about their grant process and this post sets out the details.
The last but certainly not the least on this list is the SheaMoisture $1Million Fund by popular hair care company SheaMoisture. Launched back in April, this $1 million relief fund is solely aimed at supporting enterprises owned by women of color as well as other minority businesses affected by the pandemic.
The support offered by this fund cuts across small businesses not just in the beauty sector but also in the hospitality, e-commerce, and wellness industries, along with other businesses that serve their communities. Some winners have already been selected and they will each receive $10,000. To learn more or apply, visit the SheaMoisture website.
Now this is not a conclusive list of all funds available to black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs but the resources listed are great places to start. The odds aren’t always in favor of black business owners but these are some of the organisations working hard to change that. So go out there, accept the opportunities available to you and run with it to excel in your business.
We are rooting for you. Always.
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Cover image by Ketut Subiyanto.