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Close to $100 million allocated to underserved entrepreneurs

The announcement was made by the Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency.

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The U.S. Department of Commerce has launched the Capital Readiness Program grant competition, which designates $93.5 million to help diverse communities and other diverse entrepreneurs launch and scale their businesses.

The program, administered by the Commerce Department's Minority Business Development Agency, marks a milestone as the largest initiative of its kind in the organization's history to support entrepreneurs and businesses in low-income communities.

Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, stated:

This new program reflects President Biden’s and the Commerce Department’s continued historic commitment to underserved business owners and entrepreneurs.

About the Capital Readiness Program

The initiative will provide financing to incubators and accelerators throughout the country, with experience to help and train these groups of entrepreneurs who are looking for resources, tools and technical assistance to start or scale their businesses in high-growth industries such as health, climate, resilient technology, asset management, infrastructure, and more.

Funded by the Department of Treasury's State Small Business Lending Initiative (SSBCI), reauthorized under the American Bailout Act of 2021, the Program provides access to $10 billion to the states, the District of Columbia, territories and tribal governments, to promote entrepreneurship, increase access to capital, and help businesses grow, especially in traditionally underserved communities.

Special support for women's businesses

Despite the fact that women-owned businesses represent one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy, structural barriers persist, preventing many of them from starting their own businesses and accessing capital, child care solutions, and peer networks.

The Capital Readiness Program will provide minority entrepreneurs with the curriculum, tools, and resources to access capital and financing, and connect them with subject matter experts, vendors, and peer support to help them start or scale their business deal.

“During the pandemic, women and minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs were among the hardest hit, often lacking the resources they needed to keep their doors open. We can’t let this happen again. That’s why the Capital Readiness Program prioritizes and encourages resources and tools, such as childcare services, that will ensure more people can launch and scale businesses,” added Raimondo.

MBDA, the only federal government agency dedicated exclusively to supporting minority-owned businesses, and entrepreneurs to help them overcome the barriers to economic success faced by many women and minority communities, is uniquely positioned to provide technical assistance and help these businesses succeed by applying for SSBCI capital programs and other government programs that support small businesses.

Reactions

“In 2020, Black and Hispanic female founders accounted for less than half of a percent of total venture capital investments. Jumpstarting the next generation of entrepreneurs and ensuring diverse representation in these high-growth industries is essential, not only to spurring innovation, but also to building a more resilient economy that’s reflective of all Americans,” said Don Graves, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce.

For his part, Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, noted: “Through the Capital Readiness Program, the Minority Business Development Agency—tasked with promoting growth and competitiveness of our nation’s minority-owned businesses—will help enable entrepreneurs and business owners to obtain the information they need to access funding through small business support programs. When entrepreneurs and small business owners in all communities have a chance to compete and thrive, it increases our country’s entire economic potential and growth.”

How to apply?

Entities eligible to apply include non-profit organizations, private sector associations, institutions of higher education, and a consortium of two or more of any of the eligible applicants listed above.

To address one of the biggest barriers for women in the workplace, the competition incentivizes applicants to make childcare solutions, such as on-site daycare, a strategic priority. The competition also encourages submissions from organizations that are working to break down economic barriers for underserved communities and support traditionally underrepresented high-growth industries while growing the economy.

Starting in January, MBDA will host a series of informational pre-application webinars. The webinars will help potential applicants better understand the Capital Preparation Program and the application requirements outlined in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).

The webinars are scheduled for January 10, 17, and 24, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

To learn more about the program and to register for the pre-application webinars, click here.

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