Ten local businesses in Richmond’s East End received Supporting East End Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) grant awards today at a virtual ceremony, totaling $125,000. Bon Secours and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Virginia created the SEED program in 2011 as an economic development and job creation initiative for Richmond’s East End neighborhood. Capital One and Retail Merchants (RMA) have also partnered with Bon Secours and LISC for this year’s SEED awards. RMA joined the initiative as fund administrator in partnership with LISC, and Capital One joined Bon Secours as a grant funder.

The SEED program provides grants to business owners who plan to open or expand a business within the city of Richmond, along the 25th Street and Nine Mile Road corridor. Since the program’s inception, a total of $639,500 in SEED awards distributed through 62 grants has helped 38 East End businesses take root in the community. Today’s announcement, the eighth in the program’s history, consisted of three first-time award recipients: Glean, Pamona and Walnut Alley. They join seven businesses that have received SEED awards in prior years: BareSOUL Yoga, C Alexander’s Cleaners, Carolina Bar B Que, EZ Body & Auto Repair Service, Favour Cookie Company, Jade Salon, and Soul N’ Vinegar.

Bon Secours contributed $100,000 in grant funding, bringing its total contribution to $569,500 toward these small business SEED grants since 2011.

“The SEED program is an important community initiative for Bon Secours. As a faith-based, mission-driven health care ministry, our goal is to improve the overall health of our communities through health promotion, job creation, food access, education and affordable housing,” said Faraaz Yousuf, market president, Bon Secours Richmond. “For eight years, this program has been a catalyst for a new vibrancy in the East End. We are thrilled to see new faces this year, as well as returning entrepreneurs, all of whom have decided to make a difference in their community.”

Capital One has contributed a total of $70,000 in funding since 2016 to East End businesses through the SEED program. Capital One, however, has been involved in the SEED program since 2014 serving as a program partner and having representation on the business review panel each year.

"Small business development and support is a focus of our community investment strategy, the Capital One Impact Initiative," said Chad Eisele, managing vice president of card finance at Capital One.  "Creating powerful communities requires a variety of small business owners working towards a more equitable future. Over the next five years, we will be accelerating investments in communities across the U.S. to support Black- and minority-owned businesses, as well as small businesses that have been financially impacted by the economic uncertainty of COVID-19. The SEED program creates a pathway to connect with local community partners and small business owners to deliver on that goal."

Beyond the grant funding, and new to the SEED program in 2020, Retail Merchants is serving as fund administrator in partnership with LISC. RMA plays an integral role in providing these small businesses with access to a network of peer business owners in addition to no-cost resources including advocacy and information.

“Small businesses are the fabric of our community; no one understands the needs of a neighborhood quite like those who live and work within it,” said Nancy Thomas, President and CEO of Retail Merchants. “The SEED program provides participants with a path to essential resources and funding so that they can continue to support their community and sustain entrepreneurship opportunities in Richmond’s East End.” 

LISC Virginia provides the SEED recipients with business planning and coaching to teach each business owner key strategies for how to run a successful business. Over the years, both Bon Secours and Capital One have provided funding beyond their grant donations to cover the cost of these critical business-mentoring services.

“The SEED program represents our commitment to providing sustained investment and support to minority-led small businesses,” said Jane Ferrara, executive director of Virginia LISC. “The added partnerships of Capital One and Retail Merchants have benefited the program tremendously, and we are excited to continue working with them and Bon Secours to nurture East End businesses.” 

The 2020 Business Review Panel, which selected the 2020 SEED recipients, includes; Chad Eisele, managing vice president of card finance, Capital One, and board member, Virginia LISC; Ervin Clark, chairman, Central VA African American Chamber of Commerce; Lester Johnson, owner, Mama J’s and Vagabond; Pat Foster, director of minority business development for the City of Richmond; Rebecca Clay Christensen, executive director of community health, Bon Secours; and Sean O’Brien, director of community health, Bon Secours.