For many small and Black-owned businesses, COVID-19 has presented an uphill battle of maintaining and surviving the fragile economy. Additionally, some businesses have also suffered as a result of the uprisings and civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

While some business owners have made individual efforts to rebuild, CEOs Alexis Akarolo and Zelnnetta Clark teamed up to create Rebuild the Block, which works to give small Black-owned businesses a helping hand to get back on their feet.

What started as a GoFundMe page blossomed into a full-blown organization determined to rebuild businesses in the Black community so they can continue to prosper.

Credit: Alexis Akarolo

Co-founder Akarolo — creative director for clothing brand, Lovello Elizabeth, and graduate student at Penn State — described the initiative as “divine intervention” in the way that it came together. A personal passion project of hers turned into a joint venture with her former college roommate, Clark — a working pre-med student — to build a better future for Black entrepreneurship.

Photo Credit: Zelnnetta Clark

“We don’t want this to be a short-lived thing,” Akarolo said. “We want to continue to donate on a monthly basis in many different areas.”

Both co-founders entertained the idea of a non-profit organization in their undergraduate days and finally turned the thought into a reality in under a month.

As two young Black educated women, Akarolo and Clark wished to be recognized as a credible source for Black businesses to turn to, so they set out to begin their long verification process. Within 20 days, Rebuild the Block was born and recruiting small Black businesses for their funding project.

The driving force behind Rebuild the Block is to not only build businesses back up but to also set future Black entrepreneurs up for success.

According to Clark, the organization is “making a community effort to redistribute wealth, resources, and knowledge back to the Black community.”

Akarolo and Clark have both made transparency a priority for Rebuild the Block to ensure those who have donated toward their cause can see the value in their contributions and how it’s being distributed.

Along with the rest of their team, they’ve worked strategically to place Rebuild the Block into a category of its own. The organization is setting an example for future Black business leaders to follow.

“The younger generation is ready to revolutionize, work, and be a part of active change,” said Akarolo. “We here are focusing on accepting, receiving, and giving back to the community.”

Rebuild the Block also encourages community members to “extend your hands to your neighbor and help uplift each other.”

To qualify for Rebuild the Block’s funding, businesses must be Black-owned, have documentation of their legitimacy in terms of losses, be able to verify whether they’ve been impacted by COVID-19 or the recent uprisings, and verify that they were in business before Jan. 1, 2020.

The application process for businesses closes on the third Friday of each month, then funds are distributed to eligible applicants at the close of each month.

While Rebuild the Block is still in its early stages of development, they’ve already begun to help tons of businesses within the last month.

They recently unveiled their newly launched website and the first round of recipients for their fund.

In terms of the future, Rebuild the Block is looking to explore more experiential and virtual events as well as more virtual community engagement while we wait for the world to return to in-person interactions.

As an organization described as “for us, by us,” Rebuild the Block wishes to rebuild Black communities on a larger scale in order to increase their impact.

“We are able to be that liaison, or refuge, for businesses where we are also still tackling those aspects and problems within our community,” said Clark. “We want [Rebuild the Block] to be a one-stop-shop in the Black community, and in the future hope to see this organization be bigger than us. We want this to be the foundation for future generations after us.”

For more information on Rebuild the Block, visit their website.