The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) is offering up to $50,000 to individuals or organizations in at least five cities that can help black small businesses overcome credit, wealth, and trust gaps.
The funding will come from the AEO’s Tapestry Project Action Lab, a new initiative to find solutions to those three barriers keeping black firms from reaching their utmost potential. Recipients will use the money to develop and implement a collaboration model over the three-year initiative.
There is no limit on who can pursue the cash. For instance, candidates may include a university, Community Development Financial Institution, nonprofit, investor, and local municipality. Applicants’ proposals should explain their mission, approach, and projected outcome. The lab is collaborative, meaning applications are submitted with partners and the entire group is awarded. Winners can gain up to $50,000, but not that amount for certain, depending on their application.
“We are looking for organizations to partner together,” says AEO President and CEO Connie Evans. “The key component is that their proposal is able to address the linkage of the trust, credit, and wealth gap.”
Based in Washington, D.C., the AEO is a nonprofit with over 1,000 members providing capital and services to help underserved entrepreneurs open and expand businesses. The group has not determined the five cities where the funding will be awarded.
The cash winners will be announced in October. The lab is part of the AEO’s Tapestry Project, an initiative geared to propelling black business development. It includes the Tapestry Project Innovation Registry (TPIR), an online resource to connect existing projects, innovations, and interventions that help black business owners with more funding opportunities and attention.
The registry’s goal is to bring all these organizations together in one place. That will make them more visible to entrepreneurs, investors and related groups that perhaps need help, or want to collaborate or launch similar projects in their own cities. The registry will include a listing of organizations including community lenders, nonprofits, and others dedicated to elevating black business.
The Tapestry Project follows the recent The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America report. Some findings revealed that blacks often are unable to establish new businesses or make existing ones successful because they have fewer assets (wealth) and less disposable income to invest in their ventures. Black entrepreneurs face decreased access and denial rate to formal credit when trying to secure financing from traditional banks and other mainstream lenders.
Another discovery, a lack of trust experienced by black people, often block them from taking actions such as applying for more capital, joining networks, and creating valuable partnerships to help grow their businesses. The project is a tool to help black-owned firms achieve their highest economic advancement possible.
The AEO report indicated that if black-owned firms were able to reach employment parity with all privately held U.S. firms, 600,000 new jobs could be created and $55 billion added to the U.S. economy.
“Our report gave much-needed clarity on what keeps black businesses from maximizing their potential and also the actual cost to the economy,” Evans says.
“We know what the problem is, and we believe the Tapestry Project will provide a much-needed infrastructure to support innovations essential to amplifying the growth of black firms.” She added there are organizations out there doing remarkable things.
“We want to share their stories, broaden their reach, get them more funding, and connect them with like-minded collaborators to implement solutions that will eradicate these barriers that are affecting the success of black-owned businesses so negatively.”
Applications for the registry and action lab will be accepted until Aug. 7. Visit https://aeoworks.org/tapestryproject for more details and applications.