START GARDEN AND GRAND RAPIDS AREA BLACK BUSINESSES PARTNER TO ACCELERATE NEW ENTREPRENEURS
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., December 7, 2016 — Entrepreneurship in Grand Rapids' black population is noticeably underrepresented in the broader community. In 2015, Forbes magazine ranked Grand Rapids last out of 52 cities when measured against home ownership, median income and entrepreneurship in the African American community. To begin resolving this disparity, Start Garden and Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB) today announced they have partnered on a project, called GRABB 5, which will expand economic opportunity and entrepreneurship in the city’s black community.
The initial project, which is jointly funded through the Grand Rapids Economic Development Corporation and Start Garden, will accelerate five black-owned businesses at a time, with companies experimenting or “graduating” with other taking their place. The goal for the GRABB 5 project is to significantly expand the overall ecosystem and improve access to the capital that is essential to entrepreneurship.
“One of the greatest barriers to black people starting businesses is access to capital, specifically financial, but also participating in the social and intellectual aspects of an entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Jamiel Robinson, founder of GRABB. “Start Garden and GRABB focus energy and resources around five entrepreneurs to learn where specific barriers exist and how to navigate them. We believe that if we can figure out how to accelerate five businesses, we can improve the state of entrepreneurship in the community as a whole.”
Founded in 2012, GRABB is recognized as a leader in economic equity in West Michigan. Since launching GRABB has assisted Black businesses with surviving, sustaining, and growing through a number of its initiatives and events.
GRABB 5 businesses can be any type of business from a tech company to neighborhood store.. Businesses will be selected based on four criteria:
They have been working with GRABB
They are operating and have customers
They have proven value to customers and validated opportunities to expand
There is evidence that they can be accelerating much faster than they currently are
The economy in Grand Rapids is growing, but for many in the community’s black community, that growth has not been realized. According to U.S. Census data, incomes for black residents in Grand Rapids have dropped since 2009, and median household income is less than half compared to white households. The plan for the GRABB 5 project is to accelerate more black business owners to increase economic opportunity.
“The question of ‘underserved’ populations is really a question of ‘unconnected’ populations. Lack of funding is not the only problem, we have to overcome the systemic problem which stems from a lack of relationships with people who don’t look like each other, and GRABB 5 is designed to understand and overcome those barriers,” said Mike Morin, president of Start Garden. “Since our founding, Start Garden has committed itself to expanding economic growth in West Michigan by increasing the financial, intellectual and social capital in the region. By taking small risks on capital, we can greatly expand opportunity for people in our region.”
Often, lack of access is cited as the biggest problem to black entrepreneurs. The GRABB 5 project is about learning what the ground level challenges are for five existing businesses and working on solutions. Although GRABB and Start Garden make up the core team for the GRABB 5 project, the goal is to expand the idea and inspire a collaborative effort within the broader community that supports entrepreneurship.
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Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB) is a vehicle for economic development and empowerment within the Metro Grand Rapids Area. GRABB expands opportunities for Black businesses by assisting them with acquiring three forms of capital—social, intellectual and financial—and creating awareness for black-owned businesses. GRABB empowers meaningful and beneficial economic growth and sustainability. More at www.grabblocal.com.
About Start Garden
Start Garden is the epicenter of West Michigan’s startup ecosystem and administrator of the Grand Rapids SmartZone. The organization brings together financial, intellectual and social capital to entrepreneurs by connecting them to resources critical to their growth-stage. Start Garden advances the economy of Grand Rapids by establishing the area as a desired place for new businesses to begin. More at www.startgarden.com.