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Free help, funding available to minority-owned businesses in Greater Cleveland

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Posted at 6:39 AM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 19:23:25-05

CLEVELAND — We know businesses are struggling this year. And for minority-owned businesses, there is often another layer of challenges added to that struggle.

But, if you look hard enough, many are finding funding they never even knew was there.

Anthony Spencer’s company Safe Choice just celebrated 10 years, providing security services, training, and personnel throughout greater Cleveland.

But like so many others, the pandemic hit them hard.

“The bills kept coming in, but your revenue shrunk immensely,” Spencer said. “We saw a very significant drop in revenue just due to the stay at home orders. There was nothing these businesses could do, it’s not like they got rid of us because they wanted to, they just weren’t open.”

Then, they had their biggest contract come up — providing unarmed guards for City of Cleveland buildings and Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport.

But, they struggled to secure a bond and the deal was in jeopardy.

That is until they got hooked up to the Greater Cleveland Partnership and pointed toward available funding.

“It was major for our employees,” Spencer said. “We were able to keep a lot of people hired, bring on another 50 employees. And these are jobs that are people are maintaining through the pandemic, providing for their family, putting food on the table.”

Spencer’s is a success story, but there are many others that aren’t.

There are two main challenges for minority-owned businesses — financial capital and social capital.

“Obviously, access to capital from the banks is one side of it, but social capital — which is the opportunity to actually connect with someone that could give you an opportunity — is just as important,” said Marco Grgurevic.

Because sometimes, it just comes down to who you know.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership has several free tools available to business owners to break those barriers.

One is the inclusion marketplace — it connects minority- and women-owned suppliers to public or private buyers.. from the city of Akron to the Cleveland Clinic.

“Buyers can use this tool to identify minority suppliers that might be a fit for their opportunity, while on the other side, a minority business can look for opportunities that might exist. In turn, they can identify where they can develop and grow to also meet those contracts in the future.”

There’s also the Business Growth Compass, which points you in the right direction to find funding and resources that are available that you might not know about.

Again, all of it available at no cost.

“The takeaway is that there are resources out there but not everyone knows about them. They’re the best kept secret,” Grgurevic said,

The goal is to share these so-called secrets to make small business ownership more equitable for everyone.

You can click here for direct links to GCP tools to help your business — whether it’s small or large, just an idea or growing.