Bernell Grier used to walk down the street in Brooklyn and see thriving small businesses owned by people connected to the community. Major box stores and bland chain restaurants have replaced many chic hat shops and intimate eateries.
“They were priced out,” the Executive Director at IMPACCT Brooklyn told a room full of eager entrepreneurs at Peaches Prime. “The dot-com bubble came and went, and businesses went out of business.”
According to New York City Small Business Services, “the Black community currently makes up 22% of New York City’s population,” but only “3.5% of NYC businesses are owned by Black entrepreneurs.”
IMPACCT Brooklyn, previously founded at Pratt Area Community Council, wants to tackle that problem by supporting businesses owned by marginalized people. They also promote fair housing, community organizing, and financial literacy.
Grier and her team are working on cultivating a resurgence of small businesses in the area. They have partnered with the Citi Foundation to produce Project IMPACCT, an eight-week entrepreneurial development program.
$10,000 grants are given to businesses enrolled in the program whose founders successfully complete its requirements. It also provides access to “financial and strategic consultants” who can help participants carefully evaluate what they need to scale.
Impact Brooklyn recently gathered graduates of the project’s first cohort, with newcomers enrolled in the second cohort at Peaches Prime, a Black-owned restaurant with savory Black Rice and a central location on Fulton Street. Guests handed out samples from their respective businesses while clinking glasses full of the restaurant’s flavored mimosas.
Business owners slathered on one another’s creams and oils before eating bites of the plush pound cakes filling the dessert table. They milled around the room, networking with one another and congratulating their peers on product launches and marketing initiatives.
The types of firms supported by the program include salons, restaurants, bakeries, dance studios, coffee shops, wellness spaces, after-school programs, marketing firms, mobile bartending services, home decor shops, flower emporiums, beauty brands, insurance companies, travel agencies, apothecaries, and more. Their owners stood up and explained what they wanted from the program in one word.
Companies they support must have existed for at least three years and be located in Brooklyn. Their goal is to give founders’ businesses the “opportunity to thrive.”
The program seeks to improve the entrepreneurial success rate in the area and the available employment prospects.
New York’s Department of Small Business Services recently reported that Black “Black-owned businesses that do exist tend to be disproportionately small.” They found that these firms need help to remain viable and generate and sustain job opportunities in the city. According to their research, “Only 3% of Black-owned firms have employees. White-owned businesses are seven times more likely to have employees than Black-owned businesses, and collectively employ 40 times more people.”
It stands out from other accelerators by requiring each of the businesses to have at least one full-time employee and not just rely on contracted labor to help those in the neighborhood who are not business owners but still want to contribute to their community.
Learn more about IMPACCT Brooklyn here.
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