From WAVY.com By Nathan Crawford, Kara Dixon
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Black BRAND, a nonprofit based in Norfolk, recently received a $750,000 grant to help support locally owned African American and Latinx companies.
The $750,000 grant from The Rockefeller Foundation will be used to provide funding and support to 100 Norfolk-based African American and Latinx companies. The funds will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of minority businesses in the community.
“It means we’re really able to make an investment,” said Black Brand President Blair Durham about the grant. “One thing we’ve learned with this population is they need access to capital, but the fact they have not had access to capital means they have not had access to really critical business advisory services like accounting, like legal support, like marketing and branding support.”
Officials say the funds with help to support Black BRAND’s B-Force Accelerator program that was designed to assist entrepreneurs with accessing capital and necessary training over the course of three years.
The 12-week program is designed to be an intensive experience for black-owned early-stage businesses. Participants will have access to free legal, accounting and marketing resources.
According to Durham, about 42% of Black businesses closed at the height of the beginning and this program can help stabilize businesses.
“If those business owners had been able to turn their banking professional or accounting professionals, it’s likely they could’ve devised a plan and kept those doors open and survived these times. We’re targeting businesses that were open prior to March of 2020 but certainly those that have faced challenges,” she said.
Black BRAND Program Manager Brian Owens says the organization is here to not only provide resources but also provide networking.
“You need a network. You need a support group. That’s why we’re here to help,” he said.
By helping individual businesses grow, Owens believes it will also help the entire Black economy grow in the area.
“It’s important for us because the ultimate goal is the growth of the Black economy, group economics, professional development but we want to do it within a network environment. Mentorship is important with peer-to-peer asking advice who’s in the same position as you,” he said.
Owens says the course is extensive but will also provide information and advice on how businesses can procure contracts and prepare them for investments.
The grant money they’ve received will help the program continue to grow.
‘No matter what a business’s needs are, the B-Force program has grown to meet them where they are,” he said.
Durham expects them to get a number of applications for the program and the application process will be competitive. She says they will be looking for businesses that articulate where they are and how they will grow.
Applications for the Norfolk cohort will open on Feb. 15 and close on March 5.
Black BRAND is also starting a cohort in February for 40 Portsmouth minority business owners.