Milford Black Business Alliance gets $100,000 federal boost

MILFORD — The Black Business Alliance has received a financial boost that it hopes will turn into a boon for black business owners across the state.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal visited the alliance’s offices at the Connecticut Post Mall on Tuesday to present the group with a $100,000 federal grant for its “Black Business Funding Superhighway” – an initiative that supports Black-owned businesses through financial literacy training, loan application support and networking opportunities .

“Essentially, this directly speaks to the access to capital issue that many of our black businesses have faced, not just now, but historically,” said Anne-Marie Knight, chief executive of BBA.

Knight said the funding will provide a direct benefit to black-owned businesses.

“We help Black-owned businesses build their credit skills, understand their reports, develop a financing-ready package, the whole thing,” Knight said.

The second component is to introduce business owners to a network of funders.

“We have CDFIs (community development financial institutions), banks, other donors who are part of our network and at the moment we have five partners who have signed an agreement to work with us”, a- she declared.

The BBA will help the company create a package to present to the backer network and if the package is rejected the group has an open line of communication with the backers to see what they could do differently to receive a funding.

“This is the first time we have had an open line of communication with donors,” she said. “Our goal is to be able to research and understand the current system that we have what works and what doesn’t. What needs to be adjusted and then be able to speed up this process.

The funding will also complement the BBA’s financial literacy program. But the key, according to Knight, is the network of funders they’ve cultivated, which allows for better access to capital.

“It’s not that there weren’t funds available, it’s just that we didn’t have access to them,” Knight said. “So we are approaching this from two different directions at the same time. Rather than focusing on financial literacy or just credit criteria, we look at it from a holistic perspective. »

Before the BBA applied for the grant, Knight said he began noticing that many black-owned businesses could benefit from a financial literacy program and an accelerated way to access capital.

“Our board members and our staff members are entrepreneurs, and we’ve all had our experience trying to access capital,” she said. “In most cases, we started businesses with our own personal savings or credit cards, and when that ran out there weren’t many options for us.

“So we wanted to figure out how to fix the system. Not only what can we do to put a band-aid on the system, but what can we really do to examine that, take it apart if necessary, and fix the system so that it works to our advantage,” Knight added.

Ultimately, for the BBA, the goal of the program is to help Black-owned businesses be more financially stable and grow.

“But we also want to help them improve their financial capability,” she said. “And since we’ve layered the advocacy aspect of the program, we want to be the middleman between funders and Black-owned businesses to build trust with both and build a positive connection.”

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