Annie Mattea

Greater Milwaukee Foundation Funds Minority-Owned Businesses

Providing $780,000 in low-interest loans to 17 small businesses.

By - Sep 28th, 2021 04:37 pm
Rise & Grind Cafe. Photo courtesy of Rise & Grind Cafe.

Rise & Grind Cafe. Photo courtesy of Rise & Grind Cafe.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation provided a total of $780,000 in low-interest loans to 17 small businesses in Milwaukee.

The loan amounts range from $25,000 to $50,000. Eighty percent of the businesses are located just north of downtown Milwaukee in the Halyard Park, Harambee and Brewers Hill neighborhoods. All are owned by people of color.

Approximately 40 jobs are expected to be created or reestablished. 

“Thriving neighborhoods rely on thriving small businesses for employment, for accessible products and services, and to attract economic activity and momentum,” said Kenneth Robertson, the foundation’s COO and CFO, in a press release. “The foundation is well aware that Black- and Brown-owned businesses already face systemic barriers to accessing funding, so when we saw the disproportionate impact the pandemic was having on small businesses in Milwaukee neighborhoods, we knew we had to think different and act quickly. We’re glad we were able to mobilize these dollars as a form of relief and potential growth for owners in our community.”

The businesses receiving loans include Pepper Pot, Maures Development Group, Rise & Grind Cafe and P3 Development Group. We reported on P3’s plan to open a new event venue, 1916 Black, on Sunday.

Vogue Dreams, a modeling mentorship program run by Tonda Thompson, also was a recipient. Thompson is pursuing a redevelopment project in Harambee that would house the business and other creative enterprises. “The ThriveOn loan was just the boost that I needed to spring forward with Vogue Dreams,” said Thompson. “Since receiving the loan, I have updated my equipment and my bookings have doubled. I am now able to hire help and get jobs completed. Thank you GMF!”

The funds come from the foundation’s ThriveOn small business loan program, which was launched in May with the goal of fortifying the economic backbone of neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic. The loans are part of a five-year, $30 million commitment to advancing equitable economic opportunity through the foundation’s impact investing program.

“Our generous donors have played a key role in making the ThriveOn Small Business Loans possible, committing over $500,000 to the effort,” said the foundation’s CEO Ellen Gilligan. “Overall, the foundation has received more than $1.4 million for its impact investing program. This level of partnership demonstrates our shared values and collective interest in reimaging philanthropy to realize a thriving Milwaukee for all.”

Of the businesses approved for funding, 28% are retailers, 24% are specialty businesses, 18% are restaurant and food service providers, 18% are in real estate and 12% are in health care. Half of the businesses were at temporarily closed at the time of application. 

Loan recipients will also be able to access support in services such as accounting, cash flow management and related technology. 

Past and current impact investments have supported entrepreneurial growth, job creation and commercial redevelopment. Including the foundation’s $10 million investment into the ThriveOn King building, the program has put more than $12 million to work in the community. 

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