Black entrepreneurship was a major theme in the 2021 grant cycle of the Community Foundation’s Racial Justice and Equity Fund. Support Black Business 607 (SBB607) received $10,000 from the fund, primarily to help it sponsor events that promote and empower Black-owned businesses. Another $10,000 grant will help the Southern Tier High Technology Incubator (STHTI) offer mini-grants to Black business owners who have completed a free entrepreneurship training program at the Incubator, developed in partnership with SBB607.
Started as a Facebook page, which now boasts more than 6,000 members, SBB607 works to promote local Black businesses, in part by giving them exposure and vending opportunities. The group created several events that occur throughout the year, including the Economic Empowerment Cookout, Blackity Black Friday, the Black Fly Market (a partnership with Downtown Binghamton Courtyard Market) and Bing Black History Expo (a partnership with Dayseon’s Fashion).
People who buy from local, Black-owned businesses not only enjoy great products and services, but also gain a way to strengthen the community. “Why not support the people who are most marginalized?” said Sulaiminah Burns, founder of SBB607. “It makes people feel good about their shopping decisions.”
SBB607 also aims to help Black business owners master skills they need to succeed. That mission led to its partnership with STHTI, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Binghamton University that offers resources and services for business startups.
With advice from SBB607, in 2021 STHTI launched a series of business accelerator programs tailored to SBB607’s members. For example, it matched the curriculum and schedule to the needs of community members who might have substantial work and family responsibilities, said Fabiola Moreno, technology licensing assistant at the Koffman, who leads the SBB607 Accelerator Program in collaboration with Burns.
While covering subjects such as developing a business model and understanding the company’s value proposition, the SBB607 Accelerator Program also partners with the Small Business Development Center in Binghamton to help members learn basic accounting.
Thanks to the grant from the RJEF, STHTI can now offer entrepreneurs who complete the program mini-grants of up to $2,000 to help advance their businesses. “If you’re a restaurant and you want to sell at the Farmer’s Market, we can cover your permits to sell there,” Moreno said. “If you need a subscription to QuickBooks for your accounting, we can cover that.” The money could also go for equipment, or virtually anything else the business might need.
The Racial Justice and Equity Fund supports grassroots organizations that work against racism and foster racial justice and equity. With supplementary support from the Community Fund, it provided a total of $29,975 to three organizations in 2021.
2021 Grants from the Racial Justice and Equity Fund
CARES Advocates for Families, $5,000 from RJEF and $4,975 from the Community Fund, to support the Each1Teach1 tutoring program
Southern Tier High Technology Incubator, $10,000 for the Koffman Center Support Black Business 607 Accelerator Program
Support Black Business 607, $10,000 to support organizational capacity building