One hundred local businesses owned by people of color in King and Pierce Counties recently learned they were receiving a total of $1 million in grants through the Comcast RISE program, and recipients like Bellden Café and Mainasty Productions are grateful.
Bellden Café is a purpose-driven, community-oriented business in Bellevue that gives back to charity through coffee, food and public services. Mainasty Productions is an indie, media production company that specializes in inclusive and diverse narratives in short films, feature films, podcasts, web series and more. Both of these small businesses have been hurt financially by the pandemic.
“The first COVID cases in the whole U.S. happened not far from here. Within a week, 90% of my sales were gone,” said Claire, owner of Bellden Café. “Me and my staff thought we were going to lose everything we built.”
“My business was impacted by COVID-19 tremendously because a lot of the productions I do require people to be closer than six feet apart. We had a web series, a TV pilot, and a game show last year that were supposed to be the start of our business,” said Maikaru, owner of Mainasty Productions. “When the pandemic first hit, we had to cancel all productions.”
With both business owners facing the possibility of shutting down, they took action. “I decided that if we are going to lose everything, then we have to close with the best thing we have,” said Claire. We started doing fundraisers to help people in need. That pivot of giving back to charity created more business for us because we built a better community that supported us back.
Both Claire and Maikaru also applied for and were awarded $10,000 relief grants through the Comcast RISE Investment Fund. Comcast RISE gives underrepresented small business owners access to the digital tools and funding they need to thrive.
“I first discovered Comcast RISE through a friend, who said you have to apply for this. This is made for you,” said Maikaru. “Being a Comcast RISE grant recipient does so much for my business. It helps us really follow a lot of dreams that typically require capital, allowing us to take creative risks and go after big rewards.”
“Being selected as a Comcast RISE recipient is the biggest honor I can think of for my charity partners. It means that the work we’re doing together is showcasing that we care about each other in the community,” said Claire. “I’m using the Comcast RISE grant to create a new training system for empowering immigrant minority women business owners. We’re going to supply classes, educational materials and a marketing platform to support their business and help their dreams come true.”
As many entrepreneurs, like Claire and Maikaru, continue to rebuild and emerge from the effects of the pandemic, the Comcast RISE program is furthering its effort to advance digital equity and help small businesses thrive. Starting this month, eligibility for Comcast RISE relief funds and services expanded to all women-owned businesses nationwide.
According to a study by the National Association of Women Business Owners, 42% of businesses in the U.S. are owned by women, with more than 1,800 new businesses being started every day. That’s nearly five times the national average. However, according to the same study, women-owned businesses are growing at only half the rate of those run by men, namely because women struggle to access capital and other resources to help them succeed.
In its first year alone, Comcast RISE has provided over $60 million in grants, marketing, and technology services to more than 6,700 small businesses owned by people of color – including Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian Americans. Of the Comcast RISE recipients named to date, nearly 70% have been businesses owned by women of color, spurring Comcast to take a deeper look into the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs.
Comcast RISE, which stands for Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment, is part of Project UP, Comcast’s comprehensive initiative to advance digital equity and help provide underrepresented small business owners with access to the digital tools and funding they need to thrive. Over the next 10 years, Comcast has committed $1 billion to programs, like Comcast RISE, and partnerships that will reach an estimated 50 million people with the skills, opportunities, and resources they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.
More information and the applications to apply for either the grant program or marketing and technology services are available at www.ComcastRISE.com.