A grant program launched last year to bring crucial relief to Kalamazoo’s smallest businesses during the pandemic will offer a second round of grants.
The Kalamazoo Micro-Enterprise Grants (KMEG) program provides grants of $5,000 to eligible microbusinesses within the city limits. The grants are a partnership between the City of Kalamazoo and United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, with support from the Foundation For Excellence.
KMEG funding was approved by the City Commission in March and will provide 90 micro-enterprise businesses with support this year. In 2020, the City and United Way collaborated on the first round of KMEG funding, and continue to partner on the Kalamazoo Small Business Loan Fund. See results of both programs at www.changethestory.org/kalamazoo-small-business-support.
Our partnership with the City of Kalamazoo on KMEG last year showed how we can make a powerful difference together for this vital business sector,” said Chris Sargent, President & CEO of United Way BCKR. “We’re proud to collaborate again to benefit these businesses, the people who operate them and the community they serve.”
Micro-enterprises, also known as microbusinesses, are very small businesses—typically 10 or fewer employees— yet bring unique skills and services to the community. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, micro-enterprises make up about 75% of private sector employers. Many micro-enterprises are BIPOC (Black, indigenous and other people of color)-owned and/or women-owned. They are vital to income and wealth generation in underserved communities.
The new round of grants aims to support community members living below the ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained and Employed) threshold, with a strong focus on providing support to BIPOC-owned and women-owned microbusinesses. Historically, BIPOC- and women-owned businesses have struggled to access funding compared to other businesses, and they were hit especially hard by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“KMEG fills an important need in our community, helping the smallest businesses get help and persevere through this challenging time,” said Antonio Mitchell, Community Investment Manager for the City of Kalamazoo.
United Way will administer the grants. Only businesses that did not receive KMEG funds in the last round are eligible. In addition, eligible businesses must:
- be a for-profit company located in the City of Kalamazoo;
- have 10 employees or fewer;
- have annual revenue of $1 million or less;
- been in existence for one year or longer; and
- need working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business.
The KMEG program has a goal of increasing access to funds for populations who have historically not had access to traditional grant and lending sources. In an effort to remedy these disparities, BIPOC-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, and businesses located within the Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo neighborhoods of Eastside, Edison, and Northside are highly encouraged to apply. In addition to this emphasis, UWBCKR continues to maintain a commitment to all people, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or physical, mental or developmental abilities.
KMEG funds can be used for, but are not limited to, operational costs (such as rent, mortgage, utilities and other ordinary business expenses), payroll and benefit costs for employees. Recipients must use their grant funds within six months and report back to United Way on how the funds were used.
Eligible businesses can begin applying for grants today at changethestory.org/micro-enterprise-grants. Applications are due by July 5, 2021. A review committee of diverse representatives from business, financial and community groups from across Kalamazoo will review applications and make decisions on funding by July 23, 2021.
For more information about the Kalamazoo Micro-Enterprise Grants, go to changethestory.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.