A $30,000 grant award from the U.S. Bank Foundation is providing hope to five Missouri entrepreneurs.
Marcie Davis remembers when she moved to Springfield, Missouri, more than 20 years ago that there weren’t any small businesses that specialized in selling hair and skincare products for Black women.
“I would go to a few of the big box stores to try and find what I needed. There would be little to no choices to choose from,” she said. “I would have to drive to Kansas City, which is over a two hour drive one way, or drive to Saint Louis, which is a three hour drive, to get the products I needed.”
Davis began to envision owning a business that sold products she knew would be in high demand. But there were various delays with her getting the idea off the ground until her dream became a reality in March 2022 when she opened MD Hair Supplies and More.
With the many startup expenses and common challenges small businesses can face, a friend told Davis about a grant application for the ASCEND program (Advancing Springfield, Missouri’s Commitment to Entrepreneurship, Networking & Diversity). “I only had 24 hours to submit the application before the window closed,” recalled Davis.
Last week, the U.S. Bank Foundation awarded the Downtown Springfield Association a $30,000 grant for small business support of minority-owned businesses through the ASCEND program. The program is a collaboration with U.S. Bank, Downtown Springfield Association, the efactory at Missouri State University and the Multicultural Business Association. Dozens of applications were reviewed before U.S. Bank and collaborators conducted interviews.
“I never thought I would be named a grant recipient, but it just goes to show you that you never know until you try,” she added. “The $5,000 will help me establish a vendor relationship because many require a $3,000 order to get started. As a result, there will be more quality hair and skincare products available to my customers. Additional funds will be used for rent and to jumpstart other areas of my business.”
Debra Yeager, a U.S. Bank small business sales manager involved in the collaboration, said, “The ASCEND program has great synergy to support U.S. Bank Access Commitment, an initiative to help build wealth while redefining how we serve racially diverse communities. We had such an awesome response to the initial grant application process that we plan to award additional grants in the near future.”
Jonathan Bell, who started Bells Marketing Consultant in March 2020, just graduated from high school and was encouraged that his business, a digital marketing company, was selected in the first round of funding.
“They really believed in my vision to provide jobs locally for young people who are eager to get into the workforce. I’m beyond excited.”
The three other grant recipients are Eway Scooters, owned by Marquez Williams; Jamaican Patty, owned by Du’Sean Powell; and Mimi’s Soul Food, owned by Tonisha Manier.
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