The Manchester NAACP and the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund are working together on a pilot project to provide more support to businesses owned by people of color.
The goal of the Community-Driven Economic Empowerment (C-DEE) pilot program is to bring people of color together as a community to create a more resilient local economy, organizers said.
The initiative aims to improve technical support, training and credit for Greater Manchester businesses.
Manchester NAACP President James T. McKim said, “It’s important for us to create a structure where the people of the community determine how resources are used in the community,” said
According to Zachery Palmer, a community business lender at the Community Loan Fund, “Some small businesses don’t have relationships with a traditional bank and don’t know who to turn to to make businesses successful or sustainable.
He added that many in Manchester’s growing immigrant and BIPOC communities have entrepreneurial backgrounds, and some are hoping to expand their businesses in crafts, retail and hospitality.
At the heart of the effort is a Community Business Development Council, a voluntary group of business owners that identifies potential businesses for access to credit and training, and connects with non-English speakers.
“Who knows more about the value of neighborhood businesses than the people who live there?” Palmer said. “We believe our success in Manchester depends on listening and respecting cultural differences and cues, as good business owners do. And we can help ensure their success by connecting them with tech support providers who also listen and respect cultural cues and differences.”
The listening has already begun. The initiative began with interviews conducted by Deo Mwano Consultancy with 45 Greater Manchester business owners who identify as Black, Indigenous or Colored about their strengths, challenges and what their businesses need to thrive.
The interviews revealed that the business owners were generally resourceful and resilient, had excellent relationships with their customers, and offered unique products and services tailored to the cultures they served.
Many said they face similar challenges, including technology, finance, and accounting. Only a few felt connected to economic institutions such as banks or industry associations. C-DEE hopes to change that by offering one-on-one coaching to Color business owners and inviting local banks to participate in the loans generated.
As part of this effort, the Community Loan Fund recently opened an office on Amherst Street.
Funders supporting C-DEE include Bank of America, Santander, Bangor Savings Bank, NBT Bank, Cambridge Trust and the Endowment for Health. The law firm of McLane Middleton and the Small Business Development Center have already signed up to provide technical support.
Anyone interested in the program can contact Palmer at Community Loan Fund.