Nine owners of minority- and women-owned businesses received grant awards totaling almost $19,500 from the Sharp End Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) Fund at an awards ceremony Tuesday afternoon.
James Whitt, the director of Columbia’s Supplier Diversity Program and manager of the fund, gave out the awards at the event. The event was only available to the public via Facebook Live, and the broadcast is now on the Supplier Diversity Program’s Facebook page.
The fund, which is managed by the SEED Committee, was named in honor of the Sharp End, a historic Black business district in downtown Columbia. The district was destroyed by urban renewal in the 1960s.
Whitt said the SEED Committee aims to support minority- and women-owned businesses in Columbia by raising funds, building long-term relationships and creating opportunities for mentorship.
Out of 39 applicants for the awards, nine were selected after an evaluation process conducted by the committee. Whitt said the committee is made up of minority business owners, including himself.
The committee looked at each business’s financing, branding, legal structure and contributions to economic development to decide who would get the awards. The business owners were also asked how they would use the money, and the committee considered their answers when deciding the winners.
- Greg Emanuel and Trinity Technical Solutions received $950. Trinity Technical Solutions provides technical support, solutions, consulting services, sales and managed services. The funding will go towards a Microsoft partnership and employee training.
- Brittany Hilderbrand and Writers Block won $950. Writers Block assists clients in business plan, blog, essay, content and grant writing. The money will be spent on trademarking its name.
- Stacy Self and WildysWorld got $1,800. WildysWorld is an art company that provides murals, paintings, art parties and more. The award will be spent on supplies.
- Cornellia Williams and Cornellia Speaks were awarded $1,950. Cornellia Speaks is William’s career and life coaching, credit repair and motivational speaking company. The funding will boost the company’s resources.
- Ranjana Hans and Raw Roots Turmeric received $2,313. Raw Roots Turmeric grows and processes turmeric for sale at the farmers market and health care stores. The funding will go towards supplies for the growing process.
- Jasmine Buckner and Jazz It Up Cleaning got $2,323. Jazz It Up Cleaning is a residential and commercial floor cleaning company. The money will be spent on a new cleaning machine.
- Natasha Harris and Victory Finances won $2,444. Victory Finances provides financial organizing services. The funding will go towards tax preparation software and employee certification.
- Michael McClain and McClain’s Electric Workz were awarded $2,722. McClain’s Electric Workz improves the electrical features in residential properties. The award will fund the purchase of a ladder, a generator, tools and a laptop.
- Debra Harris and Luxx Beauty and Barber Institute received $4,000. Luxx Beauty and Barber Institute is a salon and barbershop. The money will be spent on barber station equipment.
Most of the business owners said a few words after receiving their checks.
Emanuel thanked the donors for giving the money that made the awards possible.
“As a minority-owned business, as a small business, there’s a lot of challenges,” Emanuel said. “You wear a lot of hats, so programs like this are really inspirational, and it really means a lot that community resources get behind small businesses.”
Hans said organizations like Regional Economic Development Inc. and the Missouri Women’s Business Center made building her business possible.
“They both stood side by side with me like a pillar,” Hans said.
McClain thanked God for showing him that anything is possible. He thanked Whitt for believing in him and the committee for seeing promise in his business. He also thanked the other recipients.
“It’s an honor to be around people who believe in their self,” McClain said.
Williams thanked “every person that helped fulfill our dreams, and those that are coming behind us.”