Comcast Corporation is awarding $5 million in grants to businesses owned by people of color in Philadelphia, Chester, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Houston to assist them in the pandemic recovery.
The company is offering 100 Philadelphia and Chester-based businesses $10,000 each through the Comcast RISE Investment Fund.
The fund is an extension of Comcast RISE, the multi-year initiative launched in October 2020 that initially focused on black-owned, small businesses and then extended to (Black, indigenous and people of color) BIPOC-owned to help those hardest hit by COVID-19.
“Comcast made a commitment that said we are committed to fighting injustices, to fighting inequality against race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation and as a part of that we recognized that we had unique opportunities in what was happening to small businesses along the way,” said Teresa Ward-Maupin, vice president, Customer and Digital Experience, Comcast Business.
“When we thought of how can we make a difference, it really was around looking at small businesses who were impacted by COVID and the social unrest and what could we do help.”
Studies show that BIPOC-owned, small businesses have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and recent research by JPMorgan Chase Institute found that Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Philadelphia were in the top markets for sharp declines in local commerce spending.
The Comcast RISE Investment Fund is focused on small businesses who have been in business for three or more years with 1-25 employees. Businesses must be located in Philadelphia, Chester, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Houston.
“Eligible business owners can apply for grant funding March 1 through March 14 online at www.comcastrise.com
To be eligible, the business owners must be at least 18 years and must be a majority share holder of the company.
“I think something else that is helpful as they go into the application process is really helping us understand what challenges the last year has cost them and what are some of the operational challenges that they’ve experienced and what are some of the things that they’re doing to address it,” Ward-Maupin said.
Comcast RISE, which stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment,” also provides the opportunity for eligible businesses to apply for marketing or technology services.
Keirra Winters is one of 133 recipients from the Greater Philadelphia region who won an Comcast RISE award last November. She received commercial time to advertise her company, AYHLife, which specializes in offering yoga classes, nutrition counseling and holistic wellness services. Winters’ Germantown-based yoga studio recently reopened after being shuttered for months due to government restrictions caused by COVID-19.
She referred to the commercial featuring AYHLife that is airing on 50 networks in Philadelphia as a “game changer.”
“That was incredible because it gave me an opportunity to have this major company exposure, while being able to utilize the working capital that we had on hand to continue to create safety measures for our patrons and for our team members,” Winters said.
“So it was wonderful to win that kind of award. It’s almost one those things where the value of it outweighs actually cash on hand because the exposure is so great.”
She said the pandemic has caused a renewed interest in holistic wellness.
“Because its been so disruptive for everyone people are really trying to figure out ways to become grounded in any way that they can and for my business it’s been great to see people wanting to know more about self-care, mental wellness (and) taking a more holistic approach to wellness — mind, body and soul,” Winters said.
For Jacquè Scott, becoming a Comcast RISE Award recipient was timely. Scott, who owns Another Planet Barber Shop, won a new computer that is using to market her business, communicate with customers and connect with barbering students.
“It’s good to have a new 2021 computer here to do the (massive) load of my work,” she said.
“The computer is a blessing and something that I didn’t have to spend my own money for. I had been using a tablet forever and that tablet died and then I got offered a new computer too. It really just came right on time. I’m grateful for the free gift.”
Scott’s barbershop has been at 808 South Street for almost five years. When the pandemic hit last March and barbershops were shuttered, Scott said she had to get creative to sustain her business through the shutdown.
“I had to sit back and I had to readjust my mind,” she said. “I had to think of ways to stay connected to my customers.”
To help drive outreach about the Comcast RISE Investment Fund and provide additional resources and support to BIPOC-owned, small businesses, Comcast has awarded $2 million to more than 20 community-based organizations and diverse chambers of commerce. Locally this includes The Enterprise Center and PIDC.