Six local organizations have received grants totaling $775,000 in a collaborative effort to help entrepreneurs of color overcome obstacles to starting and growing businesses in Baltimore City and the surrounding region. The investments from the Baltimore Small Business Support Fund are aimed at increasing small business lending to and fostering greater business support for these entrepreneurs. This represents the first stage of engagement between the grantees and the growing fund, which now totals more than $1.8 million.
Initial grants will help build greater capacity within regional community development financial institutions and nonprofit service providers.
Five entities were awarded $150,000 each: Baltimore Community Lending, Baltimore Corps, Impact Hub Baltimore, Latino Economic Development Center and the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management at Morgan State University. Innovation Works will receive a $25,000 funded loan loss guarantee for its soon-to-be-launched social enterprise investment fund. MECU, one of the region’s largest credit unions, will also be a strategic partner to the Support Fund.
The Support Fund has been seeded with funding from the Aaron and Lillie Straus Foundation, Abell Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Baltimore Community Foundation, Goldman Sachs Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, Opportunity Finance Network, PNC Bank and the Surdna Foundation. Established in 2018, the Support Fund aims to address barriers in community lending that disproportionately affect entrepreneurs of color — and to work alongside related investment efforts. To this end, these grantees will comprise an 18-month learning cohort to share ideas, provide data and develop best practices to serve greater numbers of entrepreneurs of color more effectively.
“Racial and ethnic equity are central to the Support Fund’s design,” said James Wahls, a portfolio manager for the Casey Foundation’s social investments team. “Baltimore entrepreneurs of color must have greater access to capital. All of the organizations receiving support have explicitly committed to this goal, and five of the six grantees along with MECU are led by people of color.”
“We're thrilled to partner with the Small Business Support Fund. Few things are more important to the health of our communities than the health of our small businesses,” said Baltimore Corps president and CEO Fagan Harris. “However, Main Street entrepreneurs in Baltimore have long struggled to access the capital and technical assistance they need to thrive. The Small Business Support Fund catalyzes that access and those supports.”
Support Fund collaborative members will continue to seek additional investments through a donor-advised fund administered by Baltimore Community Foundation with the goal of raising at least $3 million.