Small businesses owned by people of color (POC) have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why Comcast created the Comcast RISE program – a multi-year, multi-faceted initiative launched in late 2020 to support small businesses owned by POC and provide the resources and tools they need today.
Now, Comcast is thrilled to be able to once again step up and help out through its Comcast RISE grant program. In Houston, 100 minority-owned businesses have the opportunity to win a grant of $10,000 to help support their operations as they adapt to pandemic-related challenges.
During a recent Juan of Words Facebook live event, hosted by local podcaster Juan Alanis, panel guests – including Toni Beck, Vice President of External Affairs for Comcast Houston; Paul Gor, Director of Community Development for the Asian Chamber of Commerce; and Tammi Wallace, Co-Founder, President and CEO of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce – discussed the ongoing need for minority-owned business support, and urged their members to take advantage of the Comcast RISE grant program.
Juan: Why is it critical that the private sector step up to help minority-owned businesses?
Toni: We know that a digital divide exists, and Comcast has been working to close it for more than a decade. Small business owners in particular have big dreams, and we as a company are believers in, and enablers of, big dreams. However, there’s still more work to be done. After all, small businesses owned by minorities were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between February and April of 2020 alone, Black-owned businesses declined by roughly 40%, while Latinx-owned businesses and Asian-owned businesses declined by approximately 30% and 20%, respectively. Compared to the national average during that time, these are bigger declines. When we saw that, we knew had to do more to address this digital equity issue, which is where the Comcast RISE program comes in.
Our first round of grants was wildly successful, so we’re doing it again. We’ll give another $1 million in grants to minority-owned businesses in Harris and Bent Counties. There are no strings attached – just go to the website and fill out your application.
Tammi: When it comes to economic development, small businesses help fuel our economy. The support we’ve seen from companies like Comcast Business has been a big game changer and helped smaller, minority-owned businesses get through this pandemic. For corporations like Comcast, where giving back is in their DNA, it just makes sense that they’re lending a hand.
Juan: How has this program been received by your Chamber and its members?
Paul: The Asian community has been really impacted, even before pandemic. Our organization caters to the Asian community, but we also have those who want to do business with the Asian community, internationally. So, we were excited to see how Comcast was willing to help, and that they picked Houston to offer this support to.
Comcast reached out to us to help spread the word, and we wanted to help. We help people find resources, and Comcast RISE is one resource we want our community to take advantage of. We’re proud to see that many organizations who already received these funds were able to pick up and move their businesses along.
Tammi: The Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce is the leading voice for the LGBTQ+ and allied business communities. We’re celebrating our five-year milestone, and Comcast has been an amazing partner since year one. I must underscore their commitment through every turn, and that they have stepped up again offering help to our members – it’s remarkable. They truly are modeling what corporations can do in our country, particularly during the pandemic.
When Comcast reached out about the RISE program, my first thought was, “I’ve seen Comcast do work – even years ago – to address this digital divide.” We love talking about the Comcast RISE program because we need our minority-owned businesses to be successful, and programs like this can help.
Juan: You had Chamber members who have won assistance from the RISE program in the past – how did they use it?
Tammi: A local LGBTQ magazine that is a really important part of our community received RISE grant funds that they were able to use immediately. Some of our other members received commercials that they’re using to promote their businesses. To hear the enthusiasm and excitement on the other end of the phone translates to hope. Hope that they’ll make it one more day, one more month, one more year.
Paul: We saw restaurant and food services get heavily hit – many had to close or lay off people. One of our members, Mala Sichuan Bistro, won a RISE grant. They had a second location that was bleeding finances and resources. With help from RISE, they didn’t have to close or stop operations.
Juan: What advice do you have for your members, and any minority-owned businesses interested in receiving RISE program assistance?
Paul: Don’t procrastinate on your application, because there’s a short window to apply. Before you apply, look at your finances, identify your needs, and make sure you know what your story is. Share as much as you’re comfortable so you can illustrate what happened to your business, and how you can use these funds to become more sustainable.
Tammi: Yes, definitely add this to your calendar, start your application and get it done. Don’t let yourself think you won’t win – just put the application in and take advantage of this opportunity.
The Comcast RISE program is accepting grant applications now through Monday, October 11. Interested business owners can learn more and apply at this link.