United States Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has announced the launch of a $93.5 million Capital Readiness Program grant competition for minority and other underserved entrepreneurs to grow and grow their businesses. The grant competition — the largest of its kind in Commerce Department history — is administered by the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), which is led by Don Cravins, first deputy secretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development.
Last November, the Bilateral Infrastructure Agreement made MBDA a permanent agency, with Secretary General Cravins as the agency’s first permanent head, and he has led such efforts. MBDA is uniquely positioned to support minority-owned businesses, enterprises and entrepreneurs and help many women and minority communities overcome barriers to economic success across the country.
The Capital Readiness Program is led by Secretary Raimondo and Secretary Cravins, who have made equity capital and resources for women and minority-business owners a priority since joining the Department of Commerce. In announcing the program, Secretary-General Cravins emphasized that inequity in access to capital is an issue for women and business owners. He stated that one of the main objectives of the program is to develop communities that have the potential to prosper.
“The Capital Readiness Program opens doors for entrepreneurs,” said Secretary Cravins. “The biggest barrier facing disadvantaged entrepreneurs, especially entrepreneurs of color, is access. MBDA can help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, access capital through Treasury’s SSBCI capital program, and access networks that understand and address the unique challenges faced by minority entrepreneurs and other underserved entrepreneurs.
In addition to direct investment, the Capital Readiness Program aims to provide professional training to underserved communities to help them start or grow their businesses in competitive industries. The program provides funding to incubators and accelerators across the country with expertise in helping and training minority and other underserved entrepreneurs in high-growth industries such as healthcare, technology and infrastructure.
Women and minority-owned businesses face unique challenges that the program seeks to address. A key area they have traditionally struggled with is finding industry connections that are critical to business network growth. The program allows underserved businesses to connect with subject matter experts, suppliers and peer support, allowing them to build relationships that are not easily accessible to them.
Another critical issue the program aims to address is providing childcare resources. Businesses owned by women of color represent one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, but the lack of affordable childcare is an ongoing problem. The childcare solutions offered through the Capital Readiness Program grant competition work to combat those issues, allowing them to avoid having to sacrifice their business needs while balancing their work and home life.
“This new program demonstrates the continuity of President Biden and the Department of Commerce
The historic commitment of unexpected business owners and entrepreneurs,” said Secretary Remondo. “Women and minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic, often losing the resources they need to keep their doors open. We cannot allow this to happen again. That’s why the Capital Readiness Program encourages and promotes resources and tools like childcare services that ensure more people can open and grow businesses.
MBDA will provide information on hosting several webinars in January 2023, where business owners can learn more about the Capital Readiness Program.