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Minority-owned businesses awarded grants via new program

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Five minority-owned businesses this morning were awarded grants through the new Ascend program.

The Downtown Springfield Association is partnering with U.S. Bank, Missouri State University’s Efactory and the Multicultural Business Association on Ascend, which stands for Accelerating Springfield’s Commitment to Entrepreneurship, Networking and Diversity. Each business was presented with a $5,000 grant during a ceremony at the Efactory.

The five grant recipients are Eway Scooters LLC, owned by Marquez Williams; Jamaican Patty Co., owned by Du’Sean Howard; MD Hair Supplies & More LLC, owned by Marcie Davis; Mimi’s Soulfood LLC, owned by Tonisha and Octavius Manier; and Bell’s Marketing Consultant, owned by Jonathan Bell.

Eway has been located on South Campbell Avenue, but it now has a space downtown at the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center, which houses the Efactory.

Williams said the funding will allow for changes to his company, which he started in 2020 and focuses on shared micromobility devices, like electric scooters and bicycles. Eway currently is vying for a contract with Missouri State University to provide rentable e-scooters through the Bolt app, which is used in Memphis, Tennessee, Birmingham, Alabama, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Williams said being downtown is helpful.

“It’s a better way to run a business,” he said.

Mike Richardson, market leader for U.S. Bank in Missouri and Arkansas, said the local grants fit perfectly with the company's corporate goal called the Access Commitment, which aims to close the racial wealth gap.

“The Access program is something that we’ve really gotten behind over the last few years, whether it’s around BIPOC businesses or changing that wealth gap overall,” he said. “We’ve tried to take it in multifaceted ways to be able to make a lasting multigenerational difference.”

Jonathan Bell, CEO of Bell’s Marketing Consultant, is a recent high school graduate who already has an office in the Efactory.

“It feels great,” Bell said of the funding. “It just lets me know my vision is being noticed.”

That vision, Bell said, is helping small businesses leverage an online presence. He said the funds he received will help to provide local jobs, and he also plans to offer free workshops for businesses who want to up their online marketing game.

Jamaican Patty Co. plans to use its funds to expand downtown and acquire new talent. The company operates a brick-and-mortar location on Campbell Avenue and Walnut Lawn Street, as well as a food truck.

Mimi's Soulfood, which recently opened at 533 S. Kimbrough Ave., is seeking to improve parking and enhance its exterior.

Marcie Davis, owner of MD Hair Supplies & More, will use her Ascend grant to purchase supplies from vendors.

Digital Editor Geoff Pickle contributed.


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