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New Economy Initiative announces $19.5M fund to strengthen inclusive small business support network in wake of pandemic – The Kresge Foundation

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan today announced a new $19.5 million fund that will strengthen an inclusive network of nonprofits supporting small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park and other Wayne County communities..

This network business support organizations (BSOs) provides small businesses with inclusive access to capital, practical assistance, information and trusted connections to business resources. The new fund builds on the New Economy Initiative’s (NEI’s) focus on existing and new small businesses under 50 employees that are navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and looking ahead for growth opportunities.

“In Detroit and neighboring Wayne County communities, thousands of small businesses are underserved because of race, national origin, and gender, in addition to the historical underinvestment in these areas,” said Pamela Lewis, NEI executive director. “NEI’s investment in an inclusive small business support network will do more for these small businesses that are serving all residents and community members through employment, services, and community wealth building.”

Contributors to the fund include the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Ford Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, William Davidson Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“Small businesses are integral to the future of the post-pandemic Detroit,” said Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of Kresge’s Detroit Program. “They are employers and taxpayers, the storefronts of our commercial corridors, creators of goods and providers of services. They have been battered by the tragedies of the last year and deserve all the creative support we can muster for them through this network of small business support organization. If our small businesses can thrive, the community can hope to thrive with them.”

Danielle North, owner of Kidz Kingdom, is one example of a small business aided through Detroit’s business support organizations.

“It was groundbreaking to receive six months of loan forgiveness and three months of rent assistance from ProsperUs during this pandemic,” she said. “Despite the challenges of COVID-19, as a small business owner, I’ve been tremendously blessed by the support of the philanthropic community. Without the loan forgiveness and rent assistance, we would not have made it.”

To further support this critical network, NEI also announced a partnership with Invest Detroit which has established a new network director office that will lead and manage the stewardship and coordination role of the BSO network. The Network Director will serve as a convener, identify needs or support gaps missing from the existing set of programs, mobilize the network for quick execution, and engage with business owners to ensure the network of support is known and relevant to their needs.

NEI will continue as the grantmaker and will leverage its work to expand its role to advocate for policy that supports underserved small businesses. Working together, the network director and NEI leadership will ensure the BSOs and the small businesses they serve are equipped to meet their needs.

“Even before the economic crisis caused by COVID, many local organizations were beginning to work together to better support our small businesses,” said Dave Blaszkiewicz, CEO of Invest Detroit. “As this work continues, along with more urgent and timely efforts like Detroit Means Business, now is the time to strengthen our coordination efforts to not only survive the current climate but to provide long-term growth support for our community’s small businesses and economy.”

“NEI has established itself as a national leader in support of entrepreneurs and small businesses,” says Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. “This is the right time to partner with an expert organization like Invest Detroit and to allow NEI to focus on advocating for small businesses in Detroit, throughout Michigan and across the country.”