Comcast is reaching out a helping hand to minority-owned small businesses. The technology and communications giant plan to award an additional $1 million in grants and support to minority-owned small businesses as a part of its Comcast RISE initiative. The recent announcement comes two years after Comcast started the program.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, governments shut down many small businesses with dire results. Some went under while others struggled to survive.
“As we continue to rebuild from the effects of the pandemic, small businesses still need our support,” said Dennis Matthew, Comcast regional senior vice president.
The National Institute of Health reported that in the first five months of the pandemic, small businesses declined by 22 percent, with 3.3 million total small businesses affected. According to the NIH, African-American-owned small businesses declined by 41 percent, Latino-owned businesses declined by 32 percent, and Asian-owned firms by 26 percent. Female-owned companies are also suffering. The report states that female-owned business activity declined by 25 percent during the same period.
In 2020, Comcast established the Comcast RISE initiative, which stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength, and Empowerment.” The program focuses on businesses owned by people of color, including Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Indigenous Americans.
Comcast originally started the initiative so that financial and technological resources were more accessible to small businesses that needed help in the wake of the pandemic. The program aims to assist underrepresented business owners in achieving long-term sustainability. The RISE program helps them access various financial resources, business support services, and tools necessary to succeed and provides continued support to recipients.
Building on the program’s success, Comcast announced its plans last November to expand its eligibility requirements to all female-owned businesses. Now female business owners will qualify to receive grants and assistance through the Comcast RISE program. Comcast believes that this change in the eligibility requirements will address social inequities and help level the playing field for businesswomen trying to obtain access to resources. The expansion will help female business owners become more successful.
Through its partnership with Ureeka, a website company, the Comcast RISE program has various options for helping grant recipients. Ureeka is a third-party organization that, according to Jen Bilotta, the regional vice president of communications for Comcast in Philadelphia, helps all RISE recipients. Service packages include educational opportunities and mentoring, marketing and advertising through various commercial media channels, technology tools such as digital hardware and business software, and monthly newsletters providing small business owners with information to help businesses succeed.
“In 2021, I was sent a link to apply to the Comcast RISE grant,” said Christina Faith, owner of Creative Thought Media in Philadelphia. “As a Black entrepreneur, grants often require you to jump through hoops to apply. It was refreshing to receive the funding and resources to support our business. I love that Comcast RISE continued to support us after the resources and grants were deployed. They continually check in to see how we are doing and what other support is needed.”
Since it began, Comcast RISE has awarded grants to 9,500 businesses nationwide, 700 of which were Philadelphia-based small businesses. In 2021, one hundred qualifying Delaware Valley businesses received $1 million in grants. The Comcast RISE initiative has awarded over $16 million in grants and $75 million in marketing and technology support to small businesses nationwide. Comcast expects to help 13,000 more small businesses by the end of 2022.
“Comcast is extremely proud of the initiative’s progress and the businesses it has helped,” Bilotta added.
The program is currently accepting applications for service package grants. The deadline is October 14, 2022, if you are a minority small business owner interested in applying for a grant through the Comcast RISE initiative.