Funding Initiative to Support Black-Owned Businesses Hits the Local Level

The Association for Enterprise Opportunity, continuing its three-year Tapestry Project, has launched "action labs" in five cities to support black-owned businesses.

An association’s ongoing efforts to support black-owned businesses is about to hit the local level.

The Association for Enterprise Opportunity, which supports businesses underserved by traditional investment capital, has expanded its Tapestry Project, a three-year program that aims to identify and remedy gaps that make it harder for black entrepreneurs to get businesses off the ground. The initiative started up last year with a $1.15 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This week, AEO officially launched the Tapestry Project Action Lab, which takes the larger project and applies it to businesses at the local level.

The association will bring the Action Lab to five major U.S. cities: Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York City, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Community organizations in each city will collaborate with a nearby Community Development Financial Institution—banks, credit unions, and other institutions participating in a U.S. Treasury Department program that offers financial assistance to economically distressed urban areas.

The program will work to help black entrepreneurs in the five cities overcome three obstacles to the success of black-owned businesses—a wealth gap, a credit gap, and a trust gap—described in in AEO’s 2017 report, “The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America‌” [PDF]. Applications to the Action Lab program were collected last year, and those selected will receive grants of up to $50,000.

In a news release, AEO President and CEO Connie Evans called the Action Lab “a vital step” to reaching the broader goals of the Tapestry Project.

“The purpose of the Tapestry Project is to provide the infrastructure that is critical to supporting the ideas and projects that propel the growth of black-owned businesses, unlocking their potential,” Evans said in a news release.

The Tapestry Project is one of several initiatives that AEO’s Innovation Hub is working on to support underserved microbusinesses.

“There is great value in surfacing these different approaches and programs that others can begin to notice, understand, and support,” Evans told Associations Now in an interview last year. “We think through that collective activity, it’ll also provide additional hope and confidence to business owners out there.”

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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