By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 2/23/21
The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce is rolling out a new program to support minority-owned businesses.
B- Cubed, which stands for the Black and Brown Owned Business Growth Program, is meant to support and “incubate” growth among such businesses in the city and county, according to Chris Jones, chair of the chamber’s Diversity Business Council and a member of City Council.
Businesses eligible for the grants must be at least half owned by a person of color, according to program documents. B-Cubed is also open to Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residents who are trying to start a local business.
Grants up to $3,000 are to help pay for identified business improvements, including technical assistance, such as web development, and brick-and-mortar enhancements, such as signage, according to program documents.
B-Cubed was jointly developed by numerous groups, including the local chamber, city and county staff, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, James Madison University Professional and Continuing Education, and the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, according to chamber documents.
The process for B-Cubed involves filling out a participation form, meeting with staff at the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center and connecting the business with others such as mentors and regional Rotary clubs for networking and developing or improving business plans, according B-Cubed documents.
Seed money for the program came first from Molson Coors, which donated $15,000, according to Jones.
“Molson Coors Beverage Company is proud to support the Harrisonburg- Rockingham Chamber of Commerce Black and Brown Owned Business Growth Program,” Lori Michelin, brewery vice president, said in a B-Cubed press release slated for release today. “Molson Coors recognizes that Black and Brown businesses were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is important for us to step up, nationally and in the communities where we do business. As a company we aim to foster a diverse workforce that reflects the rich diversity of our consumers, customers and communities where we do business.”
To Tisha McCoy-Ntiamoah, a Black business owner, the B-Cubed program is an opportunity for growth for entrepreneurs such as herself.
McCoy-Ntiamoah’s popcorn business, PrePOPsterous Gourmet Popcorn and Sodas, has grown over the years. She started operations online six years ago,
then opened a location in Harrisonburg and then in Bridgewater’s North River Marketplace in the summer.
“Hopefully, [B-Cubed] will encourage more Black and Brown businesses to have an opportunity to expand” and be created, she said.
Since B-Cubed was established, another $15,000 has been raised from F& M Bank, InterChange Group, Riner Rentals and various individuals, including John Downey, president of Blue Ridge Community College, according to Jones.
Part of the program is to point local minority-owned businesses to other resources in case they were unable to secure Paycheck Protection Program loans, Jones said.
B-Cubed is also a product of conversations since the re-establishment of the chamber’s Diversity Business Council, which had been defunct for “some time” until it was brought back in 2018, Jones said.
The success of continued chamber events for minority and other marginalized groups, such as veterans and those with disabilities, showed there was demand for such resources and business networking, he said.
“We saw that we were meeting a need,” Jones said Monday.
The racial issues the country grappled with last year also gave more reason to create the program, he said.
He said there are a variety of business development programs to support groups such as veterans, Americans with disabilities and women but no similar programs locally for minority residents.
And McCoy-Ntiamoah said she is looking forward to the impact of the program, as she loves her business that she took a “leap of faith” on starting six years ago.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” McCoy-Ntiamoah said of running her own business.