Fifth Third Foundation Launches $1.2M Resource Program For Black Women Entrepreneurs
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Fifth Third Foundation Launches $1.2M Resource Program For Black Women Entrepreneurs

Black women in business is an underfunded and underserved demographic, despite being the fastest of any population to start their own entrepreneurial ventures.

To combat this fact, Fifth Third Foundation — one of the first charitable foundations founded by a financial institution — has announced a new $1.2 million program called “Innovation meets Main Street: Boosting Black Women-Owned Businesses.” It is a partnership between AEO and LISC powered by Fifth Third Bank to support Black women business-owners, a news release reports.

The program is set to provide a variety of targeted services, including grants, technical assistance, or capital infusions, to 35 Black- or other minority-owned women entrepreneurs in Atlanta, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Louisville, Nashville, and Orlando, a press release reports.

Additionally, 245 women entrepreneurs total will be assisted through grant and investment funding as well as technical help.

“Our vision for this program was to bring together proven organizations who could help Black- and other minority-owned women entrepreneurs through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Fifth Third’s Senior Vice President and Chief Enterprise Responsibility Officer, Byna Elliott, in a statement. “Not only do these businesses need grants to help weather the health and economic crisis, they also need technical assistance like marketing and digital capabilities as well as venture capital investments. This program is specially designed to help women business owners address their most pressing needs to ensure their sustainability now and in the future.”

According to a press release, the program is powered entirely by Fifth Third through grants provided by the Fifth Third Foundation to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Association of Enterprise Opportunity’s (AEO) MainStreet RISE program.

LISC reportedly received $1 million from the foundation — $630,000 of which was allocated toward grant funding to small businesses and $250,000 toward investment in the Fearless Fund — a venture capital firm that invests in women of color-led businesses seeking financial assistance.

Minority women are often shut out of access to capital, according to CNBC, but Fifth Third’s new program has the power to change that.

“People of color, especially Black women, have been left out of venture capital investments and corporate funding for small businesses for far too long,” said Arian Simone, general partner, co-founder and investor of Fearless Fund.  “Systemic change cannot survive without economic empowerment in Black entrepreneurs from the top down. We are delighted to have Fifth Third’s support of the Fearless Fund to help us change the narrative.”

Maurice A. Jones, president and CEO of LISC, added to this sentiment stating:

“The Fifth Third Foundation is providing vital capital to help sustain Black and minority women-owned small businesses, especially in communities that have been historically underserved. Through our partnership, we are focused on offering immediate support to these entrepreneurs who don’t otherwise have ready access to relief funds, as well as creating longer term pathways to recovery, which will be critical in the months to come.”

The program is accepting submissions from eligible applicants now until Sept. 23 via an online portal.

For more information on eligibility and how to apply, click here.