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There’s more help on the horizon for small businesses in the Twin Cities that have been hit the hardest by the economic impact of COVID-19.
From June 1 through June 14, eligible minority- and women-owned businesses in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties can apply for $10,000 grants as part of the Comcast RISE Investment Fund initiative. It’s an extension of Comcast RISE, which stands for representation, investment, strength and empowerment. The fund is for small firms that have been in business for three or more years with one to 25 employees.
This latest $5 million round of funding brings the total to $16 million in grants awarded as part of the initiative, which includes businesses in the Twin Cities, Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. A total of 100 grants per city, or 500 overall, will be awarded in the form of monetary awards, marketing consultations, media placements, commercial creative production services or technology services from Effectv and Comcast Business.
Local business owner turned to Comcast RISE for help
Sierra Carter is one of the business owners in the Twin Cities who has benefitted from Comcast RISE.
When Carter founded The Zen Bin in Minneapolis in 2018, she not only crafted a business plan, she also drew up a contingency plan to prepare for unexpected hardships. Nothing, however, could have prepared her for a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that would shut down the holistic healing collective’s in-person space for 17 months.
While Carter knew inequities existed for business owners of color before the health crisis, the pandemic made them worse. Reports showed Black-owned small businesses were closing at double the rate of white-owned businesses as COVID-19 raged on in 2020. When she considered what it would take to get her business on even footing, she threw her contingency plan out the window and turned to Comcast RISE. The multi-year, multi-faceted initiative, which launched in November 2020, is designed to provide small businesses with the resources and tools they need today and in the future.
In late 2021, The Zen Bin was awarded a “technology makeover” grant as part of Comcast’s RISE.
Technology was key to The Zen Bin’s survival during the pandemic. For example, it moved services like healing circles online to stay connected with its clients and support their mental health. As part of the grant, the small business received complimentary internet and phone services for a year, two iPads for check-in desks and multiple security cameras.
“The tech makeover was super helpful to get reacclimated to this new digital world we’re entering now post-COVID,” Carter said.
“Comcast did a holistic assessment of where we were technically and gave some advice as to how we can shift some things within our organization … The services Comcast RISE provided are definitely going to make me a more confident business owner now [by] having security cameras at all entrances of our business — it’s really taken us to the next level of getting off paper to more of a digital check-in experience for our members.”
RISE recipients to date
To date, more than 8,000 Comcast RISE awardees have been announced, including more than 200 small businesses in the Twin Cities, and the program will have provided grants supporting 13,000 small businesses by the end of 2022.
“While we know no single organization can solve historic and systemic inequities overnight, we are committed to taking tangible actions that can drive long-term impact and change,” Kalyn Hove, regional senior vice president, Comcast Twin Cities, said. “Comcast RISE and the Comcast RISE Investment Fund offer the opportunity for small businesses owned by people of color and women to help grow their businesses, create jobs and play a vital role in supporting our communities. This new round of Comcast RISE grants will provide more entrepreneurs with the resources and tools they need to scale their businesses and thrive for years to come.”
Comcast RISE is part of Comcast’s ongoing efforts to advance digital equity and help provide underrepresented small business owners with access to the digital tools and funding they need to thrive. Over the next 10 years, Comcast has committed $1 billion to programs and partnerships that will reach tens of millions of people with the skills, opportunities and resources they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.
Apply for a grant, marketing services or a tech makeover, or both, at Comcastrise.com/apply. Applications will be open between June 1 and June 14. Recipients will be notified in late July.