Jeramey Jannene

Brew City Match Providing Emergency Business Support

Program focused on small businesses in city's historic commercial corridors

By - May 29th, 2020 11:52 am
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Buildings on S. Cesar Chavez Dr. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Buildings on S. Cesar Chavez Dr. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A program aimed at getting new small businesses off the ground has pivoted to making sure existing ones can weather the pandemic.

Brew City Match, launched in 2019, is focused on supporting and creating main street businesses in the Clarke Square, Near West Side, Lindsay Heights and Historic King Drive neighborhoods.

In March the partners, led by LISC Milwaukee, reallocated $150,000 from a grant from JPMorgan Chase to COVID-19 support. Brew City Match began offering grants, in partnership with area business improvement districts, of up to $1,200 to assist businesses with rent and payroll. It also created a zero-interest loan fund with loans from $5,000 to $10,000 that is administered by the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce.

The first round of funding supported 44 businesses by providing $50,000 in small business grants and $20,000 in loans. Approximately $80,000 remains available for loans.

“We anticipate that once businesses exhaust grant programs they will be looking for some low-cost capital via loan programs like this,” said program manager Beth Haskovec.

But the partners are already anticipating even greater demand and building capacity for it.

Through a $100,000 donation from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation (GMF), the program will be able to support up to 45 more businesses.

“For so many people in Milwaukee, small businesses are a source of  livelihood and personal fulfillment. For our economy to recover and community to thrive, we need to come together to ensure local businesses have the resources needed to sustain operations and create jobs,” said Ellen Gilligan, GMF president and CEO, in a statement.

Triciclo Peru, a Peruvian restaurant, opened in December 2019 at 3801 W. Vliet St. after winning financial support from Near West Side Partners‘ Rev Up MKE contest, then came the pandemic.

“As a new business, cash flow had become incredibly tight. We weren’t able to rely on a full bar of people every weekend, which was ensuring that our business was able to keep operating and growing,” said co-owner Amy Narr.

The business received both a grant and loan from Brew City Match to retool and restock. Narr and partner Mario Diaz Herrera purchased supplies to support curbside delivery and brought staff members back.

“It felt good to know people were fighting for us,” she said.

“Investing in retaining small businesses is critical at this time, in particular, businesses who often face barriers to securing other funds. The Brew City Match program is designed to provide access to capital as efficiently and effectively as possible,” said Haskovec.

Individuals seeking to apply can learn more on the Brew City Match website.

Other public programs exist to support small businesses. A city program, funded with $20 million from the city’s federal CARES Act grant, is also providing up to $15,000 grants for small businesses. A state program will provide grants of up to $2,500 each.

Brew City Match is still moving ahead with its original mission as well. The program announced its first 59 winners in October 2019 with funding supporting everything from business plan development to rebuilding storefronts. A second round of the program is underway with a June announcement planned.

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