Black Business Boost Fund Targeted At Milwaukee Entrepeneurs
New fund targeted at supporting people of color launch and grow businesses.
A $600,000 grant from the PNC Foundation will back a new fund intended to support Black entrepreneurs and business owners in Milwaukee.
Known as the Black Business Boost Fund, the first $250,000 will be designated for equity investments in Black-owned businesses to help them get started or take their next step.
“Funders that are out there, let’s add a zero to that initial quarter of a million dollars from PNC so we can do more support,” said WWBIC president Wendy Baumann during an event held Wednesday at Victory Manor at Westlawn Gardens. The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee is a partner on the effort.
“Today we must be bold on the initiatives that can best position Black-owned businesses to start, to grow, to thrive,” said PNC regional president Chris Hermann.
The fund will cover the costs of moving to a co-working space or other accelerator programs. It will also provide business training, one-on-one and equity and loan support.
“What’s new with this initiative is we are also going to look to gaps in credit history and credit scores. Sometimes those are lower,” said Baumann. “WWBIC is fine in lending to that. And also if we can look past that, we would also like to see if these individuals can get help with recovery and repair.”
The organization served 5,000 clients through its various programs last year, 88% of those in the city of Milwaukee were people of color and 70% were lower wealth individuals. Beyond serving just women, WWBIC serves people of color, lower-income individuals and veterans.
“They were the water that primed the pump for our business,” said Daddy’s Soul Food & Grille co-owner Angela Smith. The restaurant started with a $10,000 loan from WWBIC. Additional loans were provided as the business grew, including adding a second location.
The owners of Twisted Plants restaurant in Cudahy also spoke to the importance of WWBIC’s support for their business.
WWBIC reports making $85 million in micro and small business loans since 1987. It has a current loan portfolio of $23.5 million with 600 borrowers.
PNC’s grant is part of a $1 billion commitment made in June 2020 to address systemic racism. The bank reports investing $27 million in underserved Wisconsin communities in 2021.
PNC has previously purchased low-income housing tax credits that supported the redevelopment of HACM buildings.
“This investment will serve as another step forward in closing the equity gaps that exist in our city,” said Common Council president Cavalier Johnson.
Interested individuals can apply and learn more on the WWBIC website.
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