New fund gives minority-owned businesses access to funding

India Duke, Dayton Daily News, Ohio
·3 min read

Apr. 10—Dayton-area minority-owned businesses have a new opportunity to get easier access to funding through a partnership.

The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce Education and Public Improvement Foundation has partnered with First Financial Bank to establish a new Minority Owned Business Fund.

First Financial and its foundation has provided $30,000 to the Dayton Chamber of Commerce to distribute to members that are women, people of color, veterans or those with disabilities. Throughout the remainder of the year, First Financial has plans to dispense $250,000 to the new initiative.

"First Financial's continued commitment to small and minority owned businesses in the Greater Dayton area has been tremendous," said Chris Kershner, president of the EPI Foundation. "These small businesses are our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends. We are excited to work with First Financial on this opportunity."

Roddell McCullough, director of Community Development for First Financial Bank, said the new initiative was started after the bank saw there was a need beyond their Cincinnati market, so they started a fund similar to what they had in their area that will allocate $250,000 to benefit businesses in Dayton, Columbus, Indiana, Louisville, and Indianapolis.

"The Paycheck Protection Program process brought to light that minority owned businesses were undercapitalized, under resourced, and had limited access to funds. So, it was another way to get funds in the hands of people that needed it the most and may not have access to those PPP dollars," he said.

Business owner Anthony T. Head of Chickenhead's Restaurant in downtown Dayton said joining the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce has been helpful and was part of his reorganization and growth plan after a "business disruption" in February.

"Every dollar matters when you're trying to rebuild a company, it's brick by brick. It's one more break to the wall that's necessary to be able to sustain this business," he said.

Head said the grant was critical for his reopen to rehire his staff, staying local and serving the community's needs in the coming years.

The money will be available as a grant that businesses can apply for and will be distributed by the Chamber of Commerce EPI which McCullough said is the best way to get the funds to the businesses.

"They understand their particular geography better than we do. They know who needs the funds and who are qualified and so we try to leverage their resources, their knowledge and expertise within that area to be able to identify the businesses that need it the most," McCullough said.

Tara Twitty is the executive director and owner of Community Alternative Support Services in Dayton where she coaches other businesses with mentoring, paperwork, obtaining an LLC and other services that help businesses get off the ground.

The funds from the program provided her with a smoother transition during 2020 when COVID-19 social distancing restrictions were put in place.

"It allowed me to purchase additional technology to help with taking payments with a secured operation. I was able to upgrade my technology to be able to help my clients a little better so they didn't have to come in and getting a Zoom account so I can video chat with my clients," she said.

The funds are available to those that are part of the EPI program with the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber will receive the funds annually and applicants must submit requested documentation to receive the grant.