Several minority-led agencies announced a new fund providing up to $2.5 million in grants for minority-owned businesses. The goal of the Lincoln & Gilbert fund is to double the number of minority-owned businesses in Cincinnati over the next five years.
“When you look at a city that is only 50% Black and the Black business ownership is only 18%, there are several people who want to start and sustain their businesses and they don’t know how,” said Allen Woods, founder of Mortar Cincinnati.
Mortar helps small businesses like the Davis Cookie Collection in Bond Hill scale their companies.
“We had a lot of challenges and it really took faith and perseverance to make it to this point,” shop owner Christina Davis said. “So many times I broke down in tears.”
Davis says Mortar helped turn her tears into success, so she was excited to learn of another opportunity to work with them and other organizations that have the same goal of helping minority entrepreneurs.
“We’ve all worked together in various ways,” said Christie Kuhns with the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio. “This is the first time that we’ve been formally aligned and really focused on making sure that there is strategy among all the organizations to move all of our Black and minority-owned businesses forward.”
Woods said the collaboration is similar to that of the Avengers.
“In an entrepreneurial way,” Woods said. “Separately we are all changing the world, but collaboratively we are going to be able to combat this new enemy that we found in COVID-19.”
Through three rounds of applications, minority-owned businesses can apply for grants ranging between $2,500 and $15,000. In addition to money, grant recipients will get access to mentorship and coaching from leaders in growth and development.
“Having a team of people that we can kind of consult with, for business ideas or financial advice I think is very helpful for our business,” Davis said.
Grants are open to small, medium and large Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) based on revenue. There are three applicant tiers: