By LeTasha Peebles and Margaret McCammon
Every Michigander has been impacted to some degree by COVID-19. Both personally and professionally, these last couple of months have been like nothing any of us have ever experienced before. And for too many within our community of small business owners and entrepreneurs across the state, the economic impact has been crippling.
Now more than ever, it is on all of us to help uplift our communities. Vital to these efforts is finding new opportunities to support and aid our diverse business owners and entrepreneurs to provide greater equity and inclusion amongst our state’s business ecosystem and economy.
That is why this week, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced it is supporting the $1.5 million Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund, administered by Michigan Women Forward, to help entrepreneurs and small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 recover from the outbreak, as well as assist businesses in meeting increased demands in support of COVID-19 response efforts. And while resources through this program are made available to all eligible small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, there is an added priority on those diverse businesses that can demonstrate ownership by underrepresented groups, to help advance the state’s diversified economic portfolio.
For example, according to the most recent State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, Michigan ranked first across the U.S. in growth of women-owned companies in 2019. Between 2014 and 2019, metro Detroit also ranked first in economic clout based on a combination of growth rates for a number of companies, along with employment and revenue figures. Across the U.S., annual growth rates for the number of diverse companies were dramatically higher than for their non-minority counterparts last year. Specifically, African American women-owned businesses grew by 12 percent and accounted for 21 percent of all women-owned businesses. As we all work through the economic impact of COVID-19, it is vital we ensure the diverse businesses that contribute to our economy have the necessary support and resources to help them recover and grow.
Funds awarded through the program can be used to support small businesses in managing expenses through the recovery phase, including rent, payroll, and inventory, due to the significant economic impacts of COVID-19. The fund can also advance business growth by providing working capital to assist with increased product or service demand in response to COVID-19, to allow a company to revamp their business virtually through a strengthened online presence, or to start up a company to meet a new demand as a result of COVID-19.
This fund will support small businesses of all industries, with grants awarded through the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per case, and microloans between $5,000 and $10,000 based on the indicated need.
Small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups interested in applying can do so at miwf.org/mwf-entrepreneur-resilience-fund. Michigan Women Forward will consider applications on a weekly basis and are working with other potential funding partners to provide additional opportunities for grants and loans through the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund. So far, Consumers Energy Foundation, the New Economy Initiative and General Motors Corporation, Fifth Third Bank and Comerica Bank are contributing to this critical cause.
No matter the challenges we may face, our state is known for its ingenuity and resilience; as Michiganders, we always find a way to lift ourselves back up when knocked down. And through the coming days, weeks and months, that is exactly what we are all going to do again, together.
Other resources for businesses across Michigan to assist them in recovering from economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 virus can be found online at michiganbusiness.org/covid19. This site includes resources offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Pure Michigan Business Connect procurement platform, support services offered through the Small Business Development Center and more. The MEDC has also developed a FAQ for Michigan businesses and communities at michiganbusiness.org/covid19-faq.
LeTasha Peebles and Margaret McCammon are members of the MEDC’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative.