By: Tasia Hawkins, Social Impact Manager
In my neighborhood in New York City, small businesses have always been the heartbeat of our community.
I live and grew up in Harlem, where most restaurants are Black-owned, and Black entrepreneurs established their own businesses as a way to create economic power for themselves and their families. From the bodegas that sell chopped cheese to world-renowned restaurants like Sylvia’s– our small businesses define Harlem. They not only serve customers day in and day out, and sometimes at all hours of the day, but they also create jobs, foster connections, and give back to the community in times of need.
Neighborhoods like mine are facing severe and imminent challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses owned and operated by people of color are at a greater risk of permanent closure and financial setback because of financial and systemic disparities that existed long before the pandemic. Black-owned businesses are closing twice as fast as other businesses, and nearly half of Latinx business owners expect to permanently close within six months. Additionally, women-owned businesses disproportionately feel the impacts of COVID-19.
To support these businesses, help restaurateurs stabilize and adapt for the long-term, and increase equitable access to opportunity in the restaurant industry, today we are opening applications for the Main Street Strong Accelerator.
Developed in close collaboration with Accion Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender and support organization, the Accelerator is a new initiative providing financial support and specialized educational resources to women, immigrant and BIPOC-owned restaurants. This program is a continuation of our Main Street Strong Pledge to empower local communities and the newest part of our work to support entrepreneurship and access for historically under-resourced business owners.
From April through May, 100 restaurateurs from 5 cities will participate in an eight-week training program and receive a $20,000 grant. We’ve worked with Accion Opportunity Fund and other restaurant industry and small business experts to construct an immersive curriculum designed to help restaurant owners recover from the pandemic and grow their business. Throughout the program, participants will cover topics like marketing, technology integration, managing cash flow, and navigating legal regulations. By the end of the program, they’ll create a personalized business plan to help them implement new skills directly to their businesses.
We’ve convened an Advisory Committee composed of leading restaurant owners and operators to provide further professional and educational support throughout the eight weeks. The committee includes Ellen Yin, co-founder and owner of High Street Hospitality Group, Tanya Holland, executive Chef and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen, Deborah VanTrece, Creative Director and Owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours and Nyesha Arrington, host of Eater’s Plateworthy and Vice President of Community Engagement at The Collective Identity Mentoring. As longtime and successful industry operators, these entrepreneurs will bring expertise, acumen, and mentorship to help shape a program that will have a lasting impact on participating entrepreneurs.
Resources like these are hard to find in communities like mine; that’s why we’re excited to host a program that supports entrepreneurs and communities whose resilience, creativity, and dedication are an inspiration to all of us.
How to Apply
Applications open today to restaurant owners and operators who are operating three or fewer restaurant locations, have been operating for 2 or more years, and have 50 employees or fewer across all locations.
Applications close March 2, 2021 at 5 pm PT and selected applicants will be notified in mid-March. The inaugural Main Street Strong Accelerator Program will take place in April and May via a series of virtual workshops. For full eligibility requirements, and to begin your application, visit doordashimpact.com/accelerator.