Christina Davis, the owner of Davis Cookie Collection, has plans to expand her bakery in Bond Hill with more catering, a food truck and marketing. But like many small business owners, she needs capital to do it.
Davis may soon be able to get those funds through the Lincoln & Gilbert initiative, which will provide $1 million in grants this year with the aim of helping minority-owned companies expand so that the number of them inside the city doubles over the next five years to 1,000.
Funded by the city of Cincinnati under former Mayor John Cranley, the program is being led by the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce, the Urban League of Greater Southwest Ohio, Mortar, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator, the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative and Lightship Capital. It is named after the historic Black business district located at Lincoln and Gilbert Avenues in Walnut Hills.
The microenterprise group will administer the grants, while the other groups will provide companies with support services, such as website design using the other $1.5 million the city provided the program. The grant money can be used for virtually anything, said Willie Hill, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative.
The groups hope to create a pipeline of growing minority businesses that could, for example, start at Mortar, which helps aspiring entrepreneurs get started, and eventually move to the Minority Business Accelerator, which helps companies with $1 million or more of revenue grow even more.
“We are similar to the Avengers in an entrepreneurial way,” said Allen Woods, the CEO of Mortar, of the groups involved and their level of cooperation. “Traditionally, grants have not been available for for-profit businesses. This is not just a grant program. There’s going to be additional coaching.”
The coaching will include strategy and advice on building additional revenue streams.
The grants available are $2,500, $5,000 and $15,000, with 59 expected to be awarded each month over the next three months. Businesses must have been open for 12 months, provide proof of minority ownership, tax returns and other forms as well as a narrative about the business. More information can be found on the Lincoln & Gilbert website.
“This is big. And it is transformative,” said Eric Kearney, CEO of the African American chamber.
Davis said she hopes the money will help her add an assistant manager at the store and buy a food truck and a dedicated catering vehicle. Davis Cookie Collection has five employees, and she hopes the new employee and revenue streams will allow her to do more marketing of the business.
“It will really allow us to scale our business,” Davis said.