We recently launched the First Dollar Program to provide early-stage capital to Louisville’s Black and Brown entrepreneurs. Through partnerships, Render Capital will provide critical “first dollar” grants to early-stage entrepreneurs who lack capital access due to historic and systemic inequality. The First Dollar program provides $5,000 grants to businesses at the earliest stage of business development—when capital investment is most critical. In this Q&A series with our First Dollar Program partners, we will introduce the four local, black-led partner organizations. Their close work with entrepreneurs makes them vital in facilitating the disbursement of the grant funds. We ask each partner about their work, recent wins and the future of their organization. Here is what GEDDI had to say:
Tell us a little bit about GEDDI.
GEDDI (Global Economic Diversity Development Initiative) is Kentucky’s first Black-founded and predominantly Black-led nonprofit organization dedicated to building economic wealth for Black business owners and Black entrepreneurs. We provide grants for Black-owned businesses and we fund business accelerator programs like Just Boss Up Academy which helps Black entrepreneurs button up their businesses with instruction, completing their business plan, filing legal documents, and opening their business banking account. These details are crucial to help make any business a success and that is our goal – to lift up successful business owners!
How do you support black entrepreneurs in the Louisville/Southern Indiana region?
GEDDI currently funds three business accelerator programs: The Collective, a business accelerator for Black-led event organizers creating a new cultural event concept for Louisville called The Black Harvest, with proceeds benefiting the GEDDI corpus; Just Boss Up Academy, a business accelerator to help future Black business-owners get “buttoned-up” and prepared to open their own successful business; and the Black Fashion Exchange is another program that is helping to reshape the fashion retail landscape by giving talented fashion entrepreneurs the tools they need to break into the industry and create their own wealth.
As a First Dollar Program partner, you’re working with businesses at the earliest stages of business development. What trends have you seen in early-stage funding for black entrepreneurs?
For Black entrepreneurs, we tend to see a lot of bootstrapping and leveraging family and friends for funding for early-stage business funding instead of traditional funding from banks, SBA, loans, and/or lines of credit.
How will First Dollar funds support your work?
Currently, nearly 24% of Louisville’s population is made up of Black residents, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, but a mere 2% of businesses are Black-owned. Conversely, about 82% of the city’s businesses are owned by whites, who make up about 70% of the population. In the next 5 years, our wish and long-term goal are that we increase the percentage of Black-owned businesses in our local community of Louisville, Kentucky through our programs and the First Dollar’s funding will help to support us in reaching our goal. Research also shows that for 33% of small business owners, the greatest challenge is a lack of capital and for Black-led organizations, this statistic is even greater, therefore, our short-term goal to impact systems of racial inequity would be to help fund our current GEDDI program participants with additional capital to help take their business to the next level and the First Dollars program will help accomplish this.
The websites, business plans, business cards, logos, training, and limited funding opportunities that we currently provide are not enough. We would like to ensure they will be a business that survives the one-year mark when 78% of businesses fail and more importantly that they survive beyond that point to pass down the business they built to their predecessors. With more capital opportunities like with the First Dollar Program, we can help Black Founders like Cierra Richmond who participated in our Just Boss Up Academy Program and launched her business Chayil Doula Services to enhance the birthing experience by providing compassionate support and care to all, regardless of financial barriers. Specifically, through her business, Cierra hopes to make a difference in the birthing experience for Black women who are five times more likely to die because of complications in their pregnancy than white women. Or, Black Founder Milly Martin who started her practice Milly on the Watch to provide honest reporting on how organizations are performing in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion by providing equity research, mediation, and transparency of how organizations honestly support Black people. The First Dollars Program partnership will aid in helping the black business owners we work with move forward in their goals and missions which in turn help black families and the black community.
Why is it important to support the development of black businesses specifically?
It is important to support the development of black businesses because the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the economy with many small businesses needing federal stimulus dollars and other funding to keep afloat during these challenging times. In the Louisville Metropolitan area, The Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grants program was designed to help prevent business closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to preserve the hundreds of fun and funky businesses that make Louisville unique. However, these local COVID-19 recovery funds were unavailable to many Black business owners in the city who did not meet simple requirements like being actively registered with the state and in good standing with Louisville Metro Revenue Commission. In addition to this missed opportunity, there are many other opportunities for business contracts that many Black business owners miss out on due to not having similar business requirements in place. Our Just Boss Up Academy programming focuses on helping black businesses in their development to make sure they are “buttoned-up” and do not miss out on the opportunity for funding, contracts, and other business opportunities.
How has the work of your organization shifted in the last year due to COVID and increased public attention toward racial injustice?
GEDDI was actually founded during the Covid outbreak and social unrest. We have been directly connected with supporting racial justice from the beginning. The disparities seen during the pandemic are what prompted Founder Tawana Bain to establish GEDDI.
Can you share an example of a recent “win” for GEDDI?
GEDDI has received overwhelming support from the community in the short time we have existed. We have been fortunate to have corporations stand up and trust GEDDI with stewardship over their sponsorship and donation dollars to responsibly provide funding directly to the community who needs it. This year GEDDI was the named charity and beneficiary of Churchill Downs “Champions for Change Day” at the track during Derby week which was incredible exposure to help educate about who we are and to connect with a broad audience of new potential supporters.
What preconceived notions exist in your line of work?
Preconceived notions may be that the funding we get doesn’t help those it is intended for. With the First Dollar Program, we can reverse that preconceived notion and make a bigger impact financially to help the black businesses we support. Although our funding helps to provide for other necessary resources like a logo, website, business plan, and business cards for our black entrepreneurs in our program with the grants we can help with inventory needs or other business needs that may be life-changing for the entrepreneurs in the program.
What would you say to individuals/organizations that want to support the work of GEDDI?
GEDDI wants to level the playing field in business and make sure everyone has a fair shot to establish and maintain their business to create their own wealth that will continue to grow for generations to come. When someone gives to GEDDI they are making our community more prosperous. They are also showing their support for unity and equity in our city and around the world.
What’s on the horizon for GEDDI in 2021? And what gives you hope for the future?
GEDDI has nowhere to go but up! As we all emerge from Covid hibernation we will once again be able to host events, connect one-on-one with our communities, and take with us the knowledge (some of it painful) that we learned in the past year and a half. We will be working diligently to fight for racial equity and economic justice in business, in the workplace, and in the hearts of our community. As our organization grows, so will our pipeline of businesses and new thought leadership to keep GEDDI’s mission moving full speed ahead for many years to come.
Keep up with and learn more about GEDDI here.