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Grant for minority-owned businesses announced in efforts to bring more diversity to the Downtown Columbia area

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

The Downtown Community Improvement District (CID) announced a minority-owned business grant Monday to take steps towards making the Downtown Columbia area more diverse.

Nickie Davis with the district downtown said for the first year of this program, $20,000 has been set aside. "If you move your business to the district, if you open in the district or if you have been opened for six months before October 2021, you are eligible for this grant," Davis said.

The District worked with the Missouri Women's Business Center to create this grant but encourages minority business owners of all genders to apply.

Davis said there is a glaring disparity between Downtown Columbia businesses that this aims to fix. "We have over 600 businesses and you can probably count on two hands how many are black-owned," Davis said.

Although this is the first year for this program, other groups have also worked to support minority and women-owned businesses in Columbia.

Greg Emanuel owner of Trinity Technical Solutions received $950 last year from the Sharp End Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) Fund. Emanuel said he's happy to see more grants becoming available for minority owners.

"Grants help reduce the barriers of entry right? For a lot of small businesses and especially minority-owned businesses, it is very daunting to go to a bank and ask for money. There's so many different barriers that you have to go through," Emanuel said.

Davis contributes the imbalance of diversity in the area to the Black-owned businesses being pushed out of the Sharp End in the 1960s during urban renewal. "There were many successful long-standing black businesses in that area and then in the 1960s, there was a bit of urban renewal where the city started to buy property, and unfortunately, those businesses had to move out of that area," Davis said.

She said ever since that time the area has never regained the minority of businesses that they had during that time. "I think it's a huge detriment for our downtown area and we just want to do what we can to try and start this process of moving back to having that type of diversity in our businesses," Davis said.

Ranjana Hans owner of Raw Roots Turmeric also received money from the SEED fund last year.

Hans said her business focuses a lot on natural anti-inflammatory herbs that she grew up learning how to grow in India. With the extra money she received from the grant, Hans said it helped her create more space to be able to continue her business through the winter months in Columbia.

"This grant helped me buy the commercial refrigerator and commercial freezer. That was a lot of help and I was relieved," Hans said. "I wasn't worried about how I'm gonna make my products throughout the year."

Emanuel said these opportunities will hopefully continue to diversify the area. "It's great for those who may have had an idea to start a business but kind of aren't sure what to do or how to do it or that they could do it. If they're driving through downtown and see another minority-owned business, it's like, okay, well wait a minute, maybe there is a chance maybe there is an opportunity to do it."

To qualify for the grant, applicants must be businesses starting or relocating to The District within six months of October 1, 2021. The funding aims to increase each awardee's business's viability, visibility, and growth. Grants of up to $5000 will be awarded. Businesses must be 51% or more owned by a Columbia resident who is African American, Non-White Hispanic, Native American, Asian Pacific, or Asian Indian. Application and qualifications may be found on The District website.

Additionally, applicants must present a business plan with financial projections for at least one year, including what they plan to do with the funds from the grant.

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Chanel Porter

Chanel joined ABC 17 News in January 2021 after graduating from Penn State University. She enjoys traveling and a daily iced coffee.

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