'They couldn't believe it': $25K in grants awarded to area minority- and women-owned businesses

Twelve area minority- and women-owned businesses have received a total of $25,000 in grants, this thanks to the work of the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County and the Community Foundation of St. Clair County.

The EDA provided the grants with funding support from the Community Foundation’s Covid-19 Thumbcoast Regional Response Fund.

First announced in May, the grant opportunities were made available to Blue Water Area minority- and women-owned businesses. Restaurants, salons, and nurseries are among the businesses selected.

The winners include Aristotle Learning ChildCare Center, $2,000; Bangkok Star, $3,000; Betsy's Bakes, $2,000; Cozy Corner Child Care Center, $2,000; Flourish Hair Gallery, $2,000; Jamaican Jerk, $3,000; Chef Shell's Restaurant & Catering, $2,500; Nu-Nu's Nursery, $1,000; Port Huron Yoga, $1,000; Raven Café, $2,500; Swerve Barber & Beauty, $2,000; and Tally Ho Bar & Grill, $2,000.

"I’m grateful. It’s the answer to prayer and a blessing. When I’m at full capacity I have 29 employees and I went from almost 90 children daily to only 6 to 10 kids a day. But I was determined to stay open," says Rosa Thomason, owner of Nu-Nu’s Nursery.

"This grant will help me purchase much needed PPE and extra sanitization supplies."

The grants come as the Community Foundation has formalized its Equity and Inclusion Committee, which is chaired by Jazmyn Thomas.

The committee hired two small business consultants, Kanchan Wankhede and Shannon Schwabe, to help local minority-owned businesses apply for available resources.

That extra effort of outreach has been critical to the process, Wankhede says.

"So many of these businesses didn’t know about the chambers of commerce, about the EDA. I would call and they’d say, 'Are you sure they’re giving grants to people like us?' They couldn’t believe it," she says. Before convincing businesses to apply for the grants, she first had to earn their trust.

"Some thought I was a phony. They were skeptical, so I backed off a little. It’s a big learning experience.

"In our march toward progress, we left some behind. Now it’s catch-up time."

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