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Entrepreneurs

Support Organization Grant Seeks To Elevate Black Entrepreneurs

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Feb 23, 2024
The North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council will open applications next month for its 2024 NC BEC Ecosystem Grant.

The NC IDEA Foundation formed NC BEC in 2020 and distributed its inaugural Ecosystem Grants that year. The organization announced the next grant cycle on Feb. 15. The grant aims to support Black entrepreneurial support organizations and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The grant application opens on March 11, according to a new release from NC IDEA. Organizations from around the state that elevate Black entrepreneurship are encouraged to apply. The grant is not for Black entrepreneurs themselves; NC IDEA is encouraging Black founders to apply for its SEED and MICRO grants.

The fund has about $300,000 to give to grantees, and applicants can request a maximum of $50,000. Grantees are given funds in two tranches, one in June and the other in September. Genesis Block, a Wilmington entrepreneur support organization, received a $50,000 Ecosystem Grant in 2020 when the program first took off, said co-founder Girard Newkirk.

Genesis Block supports inclusive business in the Southeast with Block Eatz, a food hall incubator, Genesis Bridge, a support network specifically for supply chain and contracting opportunities, and Block Academy, which includes an accelerator program called Jumpstart Academy and the Wits Begin Incubator. The incubator was launched using the NC BEC grant.

“It was a deep process,” Newkirk said. “NC IDEA and that grant was instrumental to us in our development to provide the infrastructure that these businesses need in order to grow, scale, validate their ideas and convert them into concepts.”

Newkirk said when his organization received its grant, the socioeconomic conditions were different than they are today. The year was 2020, which, after the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement, prompted many corporate entities to champion Black professionals.

“We want to hold on to that,” Newkirk said.

Today, Genesis Block has about 60 companies in its network. Approximately 90% of those companies are women-owned and 85% are Black-owned. Newkirk said they have access to a comprehensive list of Black-owned companies in the Southeast that are ready to take on more capital and scale with the help of the Ecosystem Grant.

“We’re going to encourage all of our companies, that we feel are ready for that type of capital injection into their venture, (to apply),” he said. “NC IDEA has been a great organization for those companies that are on the fringe, that are sometimes segued out of traditional VC capital, that are not high-growth.”

“So, it does fill a huge gap,” Newkirk added.

The deadline to apply for the Ecosystem Grant is April 15. To date, the grant has awarded over $2 million to Black entrepreneurial organizations in the state. A webinar will explain more about the grant on March 11 through NC IDEA.
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