INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Multiple Black-owned businesses in Indianapolis have been created since the pandemic began, but access to cash for expanding into brick-and-mortar locations or for making improvements to existing buildings is still often out of reach.
The historical barriers Black people face in accessing homes also exists in buying commercial property.
Local Initiatives Support Corp. and Cummins are two agencies leading a real estate assistance fund for Black-owned businesses. The $20,000 grants will help cover closing costs, which is often a major hurdle for small startup businesses, and other specific expenses.
Vernon and Kesha Stallings have always been a business-minded couple, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, a household hobby making body butters turned into something else. “It pretty much became a labor of love and was birthed out of COVID with my family members being in the hospital,” Kesha said.
The Stallingses created Natural Blend Cosmetics, an online soap and skincare business. They’ve packed the family home, garage and nooks with merchandise, and are hoping to move into an actual building. “It was time for us to transition and use the product to help other people,” Vernon said.
But, early overhead costs can be a lot. That’s why LISC and Cummins have partnered for their effort.
Natalia Rodriguez Hilt with LISC Indianapolis said, “But really, focusing on that segment of businesses that really have been left behind, we are really going to be spurring a lot of economic development and you’re going to see the difference in the future.”
The grants are available for businesses approved for a real estate loan from one of the partnering agencies. To further support potential grantees, The Be Nimble Foundation is holding a series of educational webinars to explain how to be ready for a loan, and successfully manage space.
Rodriguez Hilt said, “It’s really important that we create an ecosystem that is supporting all businesses and their growth and development because if there is a segment that’s missing, that’s affecting everyone.”
The Stallingses say they are thankful to work out of their home for now, but they’ll be looking into the grant program. “Oh, my goodness, that is an absolute blessing for small businesses,” Kesha said.