TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Small businesses have plenty of challenges in a normal economic environment. The coronavirus pandemic has only made it harder for many over the last year. Now, thanks to a new round of grant money, local, minority-owned businesses are rebounding.
“The reality is, sometimes we are overlooked,” explained Ashley Scott. She owns Oxford Learning Academy in Tallahassee. She says support for minority-owned businesses like hers can be hard to come by. “We are a pre-school serving infants to five-year-olds.”
They also offer digital learning options for school-aged kids who need extra support getting through virtual learning brought on by the pandemic. They opened last fall.
“A lot of facilities were closing at that time, so it was a blessing that we were able to fill the gap,” Scott added.
Opening in the middle of a pandemic led to its challenges, including implementing enough tech for all the kids.
“I just went out on a limb,” Scott said.
She applied for the Comcast R.I.S.E. award, which stands for representation, investment, strength and empowerment.
Cyndi Arco represents the company in Florida. She said it’s a “multi-year program to help minority-owned businesses that have been impacted negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The award offers money, advertising strategies and technology makeovers. To qualify for the awards, you have to apply like you would write a grant. Businesses must be at least 51% black, indigenous and people of color owned-operated, independently owned and operated and registered to do business in the US.
As part of the application, you have to answer questions including:
· What sets your company apart from others in the industry?
· How do you use technology in your business today?
· What are some of the challenges you've experienced in the last year?
“It’s not really a one size fits all program,” Arco added. “We want to work with you and see where your pain points are and how we can help.”
An early round of awards gave eight minority-owned businesses in Tallahassee an opportunity to rebound from the pandemic.
“It was a blessing,” Scott said. She is using the new tech in Oxford’s classroom while kids’ parents work to rebound themselves.
“These families are able to fulfill their ministry and gifts in the world because we’re here to provide a safe space for their family,” Scott concluded.
Oxford provides jobs to a dozen workers. They can also care for up to 148 kids. They’re one of 37 businesses in Florida that received the first round of awards.