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Posts Tagged ‘grants’

Photo: Los Angeles Country Store
The Los Angeles Country Store, which sells LA-made products, is one small business benefited by a Covid recovery fund set up by local entrepreneurs.

I’m finding a surprising number of stories about people who have been successful — not in a Bezos way, but in a way that makes them feel financially secure — who want to do what they can for others.

But if like Anne Frank, who despite everything believed that people are basically good at heart, I guess I shouldn’t say it’s surprising.

Dorany Pineda has a representative article at the Los Angeles Times. “On a Tuesday morning in September, Raymond Wurwand was in his Southern California home sipping tea and reading the newspaper when he happened upon a story about struggling independent bookstores. The print headline read: ‘Spine-tingling bookstore woes: Some shops, including Diesel, are turning to fundraising to survive. Shelve 2020 as horror.’

“He turned to his wife, Jane Wurwand, and said: ‘We’ve got to do something.’

“In partnership with Pacific Community Ventures and TMC Community Capital, the owners of skin-care company Dermalogica decided to launch Found/L.A. Small Business Recovery Fund, a $1-million grant program to help small minority-owned businesses in Los Angeles County stay open during the pandemic. Among the eligibility requirements: Applicants must own at least 50% of a brick-and-mortar shop, employ fewer than 20 people, and provide evidence of profitability before the pandemic.

“The Wurwands received 2,430 applications for the first round of grants — from restaurants, salons and cafes as well as gyms, retail stores and day-care centers. Ten were randomly selected. Applications for the second cycle open Jan. 11.

“ ‘We built Dermalogica through selling to small salons, so we built our business through selling to small entrepreneurs who have been devastated by COVID-19,’ said Jane in a recent Zoom interview. … ‘Our salons were exactly like Diesel,’ she said. … ‘That’s who employs the neighborhood.’

“The longtime philanthropists typically offer minority businesses micro-loans through their Wurwand Foundation, but Diesel’s pandemic struggle put into sharp focus the need for direct, no-strings assistance — some small businesses just can’t take on any more debt. …

“Stores and restaurants represent the bulk of [recent] closures, with owners of color disproportionally affected. A university study published in May found that 41% of Black-owned businesses across the country shut down between February and April. The number of shops owned by Latinos, Asians, immigrants and women dropped 32%, 26%, 36% and 25%, respectively.

“These closures are what worry Jane Wurwand.

‘The thing I’m fearful the most of after this is, when we lift our heads and look around our communities and neighborhoods, I think we’re going to see a lot missing. … I want to live near the local bookstore and the local salon. I don’t want to live next door to the Amazon warehouse.’

“One new beneficiary, Rice and Noodle, has been holding on by a thread this year.

“Lunch sales at the tiny Thai and Vietnamese restaurant fell by more than 60% after offices in the area closed. Owner Kwan Chotikulthanachai, 43, was forced to lay off all her employees. She hasn’t been able to pay full rent since May, and she didn’t qualify for Paycheck Protection Program or economic injury disaster loans. Cleaning and sanitizing supplies have added more costs. But with her partner and chef, Son Ongjampa, she’s managed to hang on, her 8-year-old son, Hugo, and 6-month-old baby, Ethan, at her side.

“When she found out Monday night via email that she would receive a $5,000 grant, she cried. … Hugo joyously jumped and screamed. She called her mother in Thailand — who cried, too.

“ ‘I’m working so hard,’ she said. ‘This time has been incredibly difficult, but I cannot give up. I don’t want to close my restaurant.’ “

Read, here, about another overjoyed small business owner who got a grant, a woman who was determined to keep staff employed. These are the people who actually are “good at heart.”

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Because I believe in Pete Seeger’s notion that “one and one and 50 make a million,” I’m drawn to stories of individuals making small contributions that could add up to something big.

So here is a story from Forbes, of all places, about several women in Detroit quietly working toward rescuing the city.

Denise Restauri writes, “As we drive through Detroit, on the surface I see a city that’s been abandoned by its residents, filled with poverty and crime. But when we stop and meet store owners, artists and women who went from being homeless to employed, I see a city that’s energized with entrepreneurship, hipster creativity and potential.

“Suddenly I understand what Veronika Scott, the 24-year-old who is sitting in the driver’s seat, often called ‘the crazy coat lady,’ means when she says, ‘I love Detroit.’

“Veronika is empowering Detroit with a disruptive business model. She’s the CEO and Founder of The Empowerment Plan, a non-profit organization that employs homeless women and trains them to become full-time seamstresses who produce coats that turn into sleeping bags which are given to homeless individuals across the nation.

“She doesn’t just employ these women — she educates and equips them with the professional skills and knowledge needed to compete in Detroit’s new economy and evolving job market.”

Restauri goes on to describe five other female-powered enterprises in her Forbes post.

JJ Curis, 32, is gallery director at the Library Street Collective, which helps struggling artists. The five James Sisters, 25-32, cofounded DROUGHT to make organically grown produce accessible to all.

Amy Kaherl, 32, is the executive director of Detroit SOUP, a novel idea that involves inviting people to pay for a dinner where they can hear pitches from local charities and vote on which one should get the evening’s donations, or micro grants.

Cheryl P. Johnson, 53, is the CEO of COTS: Coalition On Temporary Shelter. And LaKeisha Blackwell, 41, is jail diversion coordinator at Northeast Guidance Center. Read about the women here.

Photo: Forbes
Veronika Scott wears the Empowerment Plan’s sleeping bag coat.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds a wide range of activities to boost the economic strength of small towns and rural areas. It doesn’t just fund farmers, although farmers may benefit from a more vibrant rural economy.

To that point, here’s an story from the Philadelphia Inquirer by Howard Shapiro on how the USDA is helping a New Jersey theater.

“A little semiprofessional theater amid the farmland of Hammonton, N.J., has become the beneficiary of more than a half-million dollars in grants and low-interest loans from a most unlikely arts angel: the U.S. Department of Agriculture. …

“The Agriculture Department money is coming directly to the theater in three acts, so to speak: a $23,000 grant to improve its historic building and its ticketing and computer programming; an $89,000 20-year loan at 3.5 percent interest, mainly to enhance stage equipment; and a 30-year loan of $482,000 at 3.38 percent interest, to buy its building.

” ‘It’s an unusual project for the USDA to finance,’ said Howard Henderson, the department’s rural-development director for New Jersey. “This is a fascinating way we’ve been able to benefit a rural community.’

“The Rural Development program, financed by Congress, exists to strengthen or help establish facilities in rural communities that will improve downtowns, provide services, and encourage local activities. But money usually goes to such projects as firehouse restoration or, as in New Jersey’s northern Sussex County, a plan for hospice units.”

The Eagle Theatre applied for the money because, according to Henderson, everyone around Hammonton knows how active the USDA has been in supporting growth. More.

Photograph: http://theeagletheatre.com/about-us/

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