Q&A: New $10K Grants and Other Benefits for Entrepreneurs

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Verizon’s program for small business just released information on its latest round of grant funding. The grant program is in partnership with LISC, and through it, Verizon Small Business Digital Ready has pledged $1M in small business grants for 2023.

To be eligible for the grant, you must first enroll in Verizon Small Business Digital Ready. It’s free.

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With VSBDR, you’ll not only have access to courses, live coaching sessions led by industry experts and other resources, but you’ll also be able to apply for an exclusive pool of $10,000 small business grants.

To unlock an application for the current round of grant funding, register on Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, complete any combination of the two courses, coaching events and community events, and apply by May 12, 2023.

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Last year, we reached out to Brianna Ellison, director of community engagement for Verizon, as part of our initiative to bring the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready program to entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners. She described some marketing tools, one-on-one mentoring and other aspects of the program that can help small businesses throughout Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

What is Verizon doing in the Detroit/Michigan community to support small businesses?

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Verizon has actively partnered with small businesses in Michigan. We are a member of several chambers of commerce and associations across the state that work with small businesses (such as Detroit Regional Chamber, Grand Rapids Chamber, Dearborn Chamber, The Wright Place, MI Chamber, Automation Alley, Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance, MI Business Incubator Association.) Verizon participates in several thought leadership programs with these organizations to share expertise and resources with their membership.

In 2021, we awarded a grant to Grand Valley State University’s Veterans Entrepreneurship Lab. Veteran and/or military spouses work on their business launch over a three month period. MVE-Lab prepares participants to identify their target customers, network with others, and find the resources they need to launch profitably and successfully. It culminates with a pitch showcase giving away at least $25,000 in prize money. Guests included other seasoned entrepreneurs, mentors, and experts such as attorneys and marketing experts, including the leader of Verizon’s Veteran Employee Resource Group, who shared their own personal experiences as an entrepreneur as well as Verizon support for small business owners. shared information about.

Brianna Ellison

In 2021, we also established a partnership between Verizon’s pro bono program and the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance’s Capital Connect program. This program prepares and connects Metro Detroit Black-owned businesses to a variety of funding resources to ensure their continued success. If any of these businesses need further legal assistance or one-on-one support, the Verizon Pro Bono Program team has agreed to work directly with these businesses to identify additional legal services.

Finally, in September, Verizon launched Small Business Digital Ready. This online course is designed to give small businesses the personalized tools to succeed in today’s digital world. The program includes learning modules, expert coaching, peer networking and a marketplace of tools and solutions. The free online resource is available to any small business in Michigan (and nationwide) and will be used by Black Business Alliance’s Capital Connect program through Verizon partners.

What do you mean by “digital ready” and why is digital readiness important to small business owners today?

Digital preparedness is about making sure businesses have all the tools and resources they need to thrive in today’s economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown unprecedented challenges at entrepreneurs and has accelerated the transformation to digital ways of working. More than 75% of small businesses changed their operations due to the crisis and more than 50% of SMBs say their online interactions with customers have increased. To remain competitive in the new economic environment, small businesses must be agile and adapt to changing consumer preferences.

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Small business entrepreneurs understand the importance of using digital tools in their daily operations, but find it challenging to implement meaningful digital transformation. According to data published in a September 2020 report by Morning Consult and Verizon, “more than two out of five decision makers say it is likely that their business will expand through digital technologies and rely more heavily on communication.” At the same time, more than two-thirds of respondents acknowledged that adding or transitioning to digital/online operations has been a challenge for their business to address. How do we bridge this gap? Entrepreneurs need easy access to personalized learning and coaching resources to successfully implement digital strategies in their businesses and have the confidence to succeed in the post-pandemic future.

Why is the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready program a good resource for business owners in Metro Detroit and Michigan?

Home to a vibrant and multicultural entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as a variety of research organizations and anchor institutions, Detroit’s rich roots epitomize the hardworking and innovative ethos of its diverse small business owners. Detroit has nearly 50k small businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color and the city is committed to ensuring that residents have equal access to the educational and economic opportunities of an emerging high-growth economy. According to the 2021 Detroit Ecosystem Assessment, Detroit accounts for 23% of all startup companies in Michigan and has all the necessary resources to launch and grow digital ready businesses. As Verizon strives to connect BIPOC business owners across the country with this valuable resource and create more equitable avenues for entrepreneurs to thrive in the digital economy, we look to small business owners in the greater Metro Detroit area — and Michigan — in pursuit of a significant user base.

Verizon’s Small Business Digital Ready program was built by small businesses, for small businesses (mostly BIPOCs). Jameel Robinson, executive director of Grand Rapids Area Black Business (GRABB), a Michigan-based business development organization, was a key voice on the Small Business Advisory Committee that helped shape the program and its offerings. Diverse subject matter experts drive our content, interactive video modules and coaching events. In short, entrepreneurs in Metro Detroit will be equipped with digital strategies and relevant learnings – through curated course topics, coaching events and community groups – to apply to their businesses!

What guidance are the small business owners you work with looking for?

We know that small business owners are generally interested in learning more about financing, digital marketing, and operational efficiency. Our users have told us that they have derived tremendous value from educational resources and from connecting directly with experts – through one-on-one mentoring and group coaching events. Sixty-eight percent of users on the platform are interested in connecting with a finance expert and 64% of users on the platform are interested in connecting with a marketing expert. The most popular topic areas are access to capital, digital marketing and improving online presence. Business owners will also love being part of a community where they can learn from each other, as 52% of users want to connect with peers who share common interests.

How can Verizon help with community networking on a personal level, not a digital one?

Verizon Small Business Digital Ready is designed to be a valuable tool for BDOs, Small Business Development Centers, CDFIs and other organizations helping small businesses every day. We are partnering closely with these types of organizations and working with them to integrate our resources into their offerings. The Community section of Small Business Digital Ready also lets businesses connect with other businesses and resources by city to connect with support in their local area!

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Verizon began a grassroots effort to host virtual community dialogues focused on small businesses in communities across the state. The purpose of these conversations is to hear about the great work that small business owners and small business development organizations are currently doing, the current and ongoing challenges small business owners are facing, and to discuss How Verizon can be helpful going forward. Attendees include small business owners, small business support organizations and the Chamber of Commerce.

Now more than ever, at Verizon we will continue to build incredibly valuable relationships with the communities we serve. These conversations are just the start of what we hope will be a long-term partnership where we can continue to interact and explore future opportunities to be helpful.

What skills do you bring to the community as a liaison between Verizon and small business owners?

As a local liaison between Verizon and small business owners, I work to build bridges with our peers, internal business partners and external stakeholders to champion policies that enrich lives and build a digital future. that serve all Michigan communities. I leverage relationships within Verizon and with business support organization partners to build coalitions, amplify successes and best practices to address the challenges facing small businesses, and disseminate information about Verizon tools and resources. I am able Reactively, I meet with businesses to listen to their needs and innovate along the way as we accumulate goodwill in our local communities and build networks that move the world forward for everyone.

Originally published in September 2022.

Verizon Small Business Digital Ready: A free resource to learn basic business skills, grants, the latest digital technologies and more.

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