First Class help for community businesses

Grant fund helping Birmingham’s Black entrepreneurs to bounce back.

A group of Black business owners have been awarded grant funding to help them bounce back following the coronavirus pandemic.

The entrepreneurs successfully pitched to access a share of £30,000 in bounce back funding, which has been made available to small businesses from Birmingham’s African and Caribbean community.

The Bounce Back programme was delivered by West Midlands-based charity, First Class Foundation and business consultancy, She’s the Boss, on behalf of Birmingham Voluntary Service Council.

The seven-week initiative included a series of peer support, tips and information sessions to support local businesses recovering from the impact of lockdown.

Applicants were invited to two panel sessions to present their business ideas and explain how the funding would support the delivery of an activity, or support an aspiration.

Funds were awarded equally to 14 of the 26 small businesses that applied, who will each benefit from more than £2,000.

One business owner to benefit is 38-year-old entrepreneur, Vanessa Kelly, managing director of Birmingham-based Community Interest Company 2 Much Passion. She applied for the fund to help her African and Caribbean food business to change direction and expand its digital presence.

Vanessa said: “The project was inspirational and just what was needed for small businesses to get the support they need. We’ll be using the funding to develop online cooking classes that will enable us to grow our business.”

Nathan Dennis, co-founder of First Class Foundation, said that the Bounce Back programme had been an effective vehicle in bringing small businesses owners from the Black community together.

“We’ve been able to better understand the issues many of our local businesses are facing and provide expertise and peer support to help them,” he said. “We’ve also been struck by the openness displayed by participants, the breadth of activities and services they provide and above all, their commitment to the communities they are seeking to serve.”

Ray Walker, partnership and delivery manager, Covid recovery at BVSC, said: “We are delighted with the work that has been done through the Bounce Back programme. It has been well received by the participants and the money will be used well to progress and meet the needs that were explained in the sessions and to the panel. We are now exploring ways to build on this work.”