By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
Comcast recently announced that it would bestow 100 Baltimore small businesses with grant packages that include $5,000 in funding, business consultation, educational resources, media schedule, creative production and a technology makeover as part of the Comcast RISE program.
To qualify for the program, businesses must have 100 or fewer employees, be headquartered in Baltimore and have at least three years of operation on the books. Entrepreneurs can apply for the grant package starting on June 1, and the application will remain open until June 30.
“As we leave the pandemic behind us, and small businesses transition from pandemic recovery to growth and expansion, we’re evolving the Comcast RISE program,” said Kristie Fox, vice president of communications for Comcast’s Beltway region. “We’re focusing it on helping to strengthen and empower small businesses to grow.”
Comcast RISE was created in 2020 in response to COVID-19.
“RISE” stands for representation, investment, strength and empowerment. It was designed to provide relief to businesses that were hit hard by the pandemic’s strain on day-to-day operations.
In the initial two-year iteration of the program, businesses received either a technology makeover, marketing grant or an investment grant. Overall, 13,000 businesses were impacted receiving more than $110 million in monetary, marketing and technology resources.
For 2023, Comcast expanded the program so that winning businesses could receive a comprehensive grant package that included all of these grants.
Aside from capital, one-on-one consultation and educational resources, grant recipients will be awarded a 30-second TV commercial and a technology makeover, which provides a year of internet, phone service and cybersecurity support.
“We’ve learned through the few years of this program how important it is to support small businesses in a comprehensive way. The monetary grants are very effective because the company can put it toward whichever area of growth they need,” said Fox.
“However, knowing how to develop a business plan, having consultation to grow your business and having advertising and technology services are core to the operation of a business from a day-to-day perspective.”
A third-party selection committee will evaluate the applications before sending their recommendations to a Comcast selection committee. The judges will pay special attention to the originality and persuasiveness of the responses, and they will examine the applicant’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Winners of Comcast Rise will be announced on August 22.
Mother-daughter duo Dasia and Melanie Kabia were previous recipients of a Comcast RISE grant. Together, the women run Ice Queens, a snowball shop and bakery in Locust Point, Baltimore.
Dasia serves as the owner, while Melanie refers to herself as the “momager.” Although sales boomed for the pair during the warmer months of the pandemic in 2020, their business expenses began to outpace their net revenue in the fall months of the same year.
The Kabias projected that they were going to run out of money during their second year, so they began looking for grants. While going through her mail, Melanie came across a Comcast bill that included a flier about Comcast RISE.
Ice Queen was awarded a 30-second TV spot through the program.
“After we gave them the content and the pictures to put the video together, it was really encouraging to see our business, our faces and our product on TV,” said Melanie.
Even after RISE, Comcast has continued to call on Ice Queens to serve their sweet treats at company events.
Mujahid Muhammad, president of KEYS Enterprises, was also previously awarded a 30-second TV spot through Comcast RISE.
His organization, which was established in 2013, is made up of three separate entities that provide therapeutic services, mentorship and workforce development from local providers.
The TV spot helped Muhammad garner support for his social enterprise leading to securing $1 million in state funding for a community healing village. Since then, KEYS Enterprises has raised an additional $4 million for the project.
“For Black small businesses, there is an equity gap that involves advertising. We have a lot of successful and unsuccessful Black businesses that cannot afford or are not given the opportunity to take advantage of large-scale advertising,” said Muhammad.
“I think that with large-scale advertisement, we create successful small businesses.”
Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.
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