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April 2, 2021

Grant program to aid Black-owned businesses


Many small business owners are hurting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but statistics suggest Black-owned businesses have felt the deepest pain.  

Nationally, more than 40% of Black-owned businesses closed in 2020 due to the public health crisis, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank, which said those businesses typically lacked the financial cushion to withstand economic shocks. 

In the Elm City, New Haven community development organization ConnCORP (Connecticut Community Outreach Revitalization Program) is looking to help struggling Black-owned businesses survive and grow in the coming months with a new grant program.

The organization, an arm of New Haven nonprofit ConnCAT,  is also seeking new community and business partners to support the effort.

Through its Economic Justice Fund, ConnCORP said it will award grants of up to $10,000, based on need, to 10 New Haven Black-owned businesses that have been operating for at least 24 months.

“We want to help capitalize these businesses so they can be more resilient going forward,”  ConnCORP Chief Investment Officer Anna Blanding said in a phone interview Thursday.

The chosen businesses will also get $15,000 worth of business consulting in areas like marketing, legal assistance, accounting, new product development, web design and public relations. 

The technical help is being underwritten by a $200,000 matching grant from the New Haven Innovation Collaborative (NHIC) through CTNext, part of the state’s quasi-public venture arm.

“Together, our economic recovery will be fairer — and stronger — if we can fund the potential in these under-resourced entrepreneurs,” said NHIC Director Michael Harris. 

Blanding said ConnCORP launched the Economic Justice Fund in the midst of the pandemic last summer, originally to raise $600,000 to help families in New Haven’s Newhallville and Dixwell neighborhoods with basic needs.

So far, more than 200 donors from around the state and country have contributed, and hundreds of families have benefitted. “We really wanted to keep that momentum going and now we’re moving into helping businesses,” Blanding said. 

Even before the pandemic and economic shutdown, Black-owned businesses have historically struggled to access capital, which limits their chances of success even when times are good, Blanding explained.

She said studies show Black-owned businesses start out with $32,000 in outside capital on average, compared to $135,000 on average for white-owned businesses. 

They also have a smaller reserve of cash to tap in an emergency — an average of 14 days’ worth — so any economic setback can be disastrous. Black-owned businesses also received a smaller portion of Federal COVID-19 assistance. 

To fill the gap, Blanding said ConnCORP has set a goal of raising $1 million, and is looking for individual, nonprofit and corporate donors. The organization is also taking applications from vendors to provide technical expertise. 

“If you’ve gotten through COVID unscathed and want to give, this is a great way to do it,” she said.

Black-owned businesses have until April 5 to apply for the first round of grants but the organization expects to open a second round of funding later this year. 

In the long term, the organization said it hopes to provide larger forms of capital such as loans, revenue sharing or other equity investments. 

To apply for a grant, or for more information on how to become a vendor or donate, visit ConnCORP’s website HERE.

Contact Natalie Missakian at

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