On Friday, Fifth Third announced a new $1.2 million grant program called “Innovation meets Main Street: Boosting Black Women-Owned Businesses,” a partnership between AEO and LISC powered by Fifth Third Bank.
The program is made possible by grants from the Fifth Third Foundation to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Association of Enterprise Opportunity’s (AEO) MainStreet RISE program. The funds are part of the $8.75 million Fifth Third pledged to support small businesses and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our vision for this program was to bring together proven organizations who could help black- and other minority-owned women entrepreneurs through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Byna Elliott, Fifth Third’s senior vice president and chief enterprise responsibility officer. “Not only do these businesses need grants to help weather the health and economic crisis, but they also need technical assistance like marketing and digital capabilities as well as venture capital investments. This program is specially designed to help women business owners address their most pressing needs to ensure their sustainability now and in the future.”
This Innovation meets Main Street program is powered entirely by Fifth Third. LISC received $1 million from the Fifth Third Foundation, $630,000 of which was designated for grant funding to small businesses and $250,000 for an investment in the Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm that invests in women of color-led businesses seeking financing. The remaining funds will support the delivery of technical assistance.
“People of color, especially Black women, have been left out of venture capital investments and corporate funding for small businesses for far too long,” said Arian Simone, general partner, co-founder, and investor for the Fearless Fund. “Systemic change cannot survive without economic empowerment in Black entrepreneurs from the top down. We are delighted to have Fifth Third’s support of the Fearless Fund to help us change the narrative.”
Additionally, AEO received $200,000 from the Foundation to provide business owners access to MainStreet RISE, a suite of critical tech-enabled tools and resources to keep businesses existing and selling during and after the pandemic. The tools include Saverlife, FanBank, GoDaddy, Bench, MicroMentor, and more. The funding also will enable AEO to design the Small Business Resource Navigator, an online interactive tool that directs small businesses to local resources.
Altogether, the program will provide targeted services—grants, technical assistance, or capital infusions—to 35 black- or other minority-owned women entrepreneurs in Atlanta, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Louisville, Nashville, and Orlando. A total of 245 women entrepreneurs will be assisted with grants and investments, and more will receive technical assistance.
“The Fifth Third Foundation is providing vital capital to help sustain Black and minority women-owned small businesses, especially in communities that have been historically underserved,” said Maurice A. Jones, the president and CEO of LISC, a national community development nonprofit that invests in affordable housing, economic development, health, and jobs. “Through our partnership, we are focused on offering immediate support to these entrepreneurs who don’t otherwise have ready access to relief funds, as well as creating longer-term pathways to recovery, which will be critical in the months to come.”
Applications, via an online portal, will open at the commencement of the “State of Black Women-Owned Businesses” webinar on Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. EST. The webinar features:
- Byna Elliott, Fifth Third Bank senior vice president and chief enterprise sustainability officer
- Connie E. Evans, president and CEO of the Association of Enterprise Opportunity
- Steve Hall, senior director of economic development of Local Initiatives Support Corporation
- Arian Simone, co-founder of Fearless Fund
- Kimberly Blackwell, chief executive officer of PMM.
Registrations must be made in advance of the date at the following link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_LQHGoZu_S-CbR-zwA6YkVQ.
The application period will close seven days later, on Sept. 23. All eligible applicants will be scored and ranked for selection. Applicants will be notified of acceptance and/or denial via email. Eligibility requirements include, but are not limited, to:
- Legal, for-profit business located in one of the seven markets.
- Businesses must be currently operating, not closed.
- Demonstrated record of operating before COVID-19 and was closed due to a local pandemic-related mandate, and in operation for over one year (business launched prior to May 1, 2019).
- Location within al ow- and moderate-income census tract.
- Annual business revenues of less than $1 million.