New Program Aims To Retain, Expand Minority Businesses

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Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman joined Ben Birge, Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation (AAEDC) CEO, on January 29 to announce the launch of the Inclusive Ventures Program (IVP). The goal of the IVP is to help small, minority, women and veteran owned businesses in Anne Arundel County by offering a robust menu of resources including education, access to capital and mentorship.

“Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation has once again thought outside the box to create a program that goes directly to the needs of county businesses, this time specifically small minority and women-owned businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic economy,” Pittman said. “The mix of mentorship, grant funding, and access to credit for a carefully selected group of entrepreneurs is a winning formula.”

Business owners must apply to the IVP, which has a limit of 10 participants. Upon acceptance, entrepreneurs will take part in the program’s signature component, the Virtual Entrepreneurship Cohort and Seed Fund. This online experience is a three-hour class once a week for six weeks led by business consultant Will Holmes, a recruiter for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. During the seventh meeting, each participant will receive a certificate of completion and a $5,000 grant to be used for working capital.

Participating businesses also receive exclusive, complimentary consultations with legal, human resources and accounting experts such as:

• Johnetta Thurston – Founder of JDA Management Consulting who will serve as the IVP’s human resources consultant

• Carlos “CJ” Santos – An associate with law firm Nemphos Braue LLC and a board member of the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

• LaKia Bourne - Owner and CEO of Synergy Accounting Services

Entrepreneurs also may apply for additional funds through AAEDC’s VOLT loan fund and Workforce Training Reimbursement program. AAEDC is a manager of the VOLT Fund, a State of Maryland program that provides low-interest loans from $25,000 to $500,000 to qualified small, minority, women and veteran owned businesses. The Workforce Training Grant is a reimbursement to cover 50% up to $1,000 of a business’ cost in training its employees.

“We know that even before the pandemic that these types of small businesses were already on tenuous footing, with many challenged with meeting operating expenses,” Birge said. “We believe that the unique features of the IVP, particularly the virtual education component and the grant, will help participating businesses be in a better position to access capital and grow to the next level.”

Interested businesses should apply by visiting the Inclusive Ventures Program page on the AAEDC website. The application period runs through 5:00pm on February 19.

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