Empowering Entrepreneurs of Color
Erie Minority-Owned Business Accelerator to welcome second cohort
An amoeba is a single-celled, blob-like organism capable of altering its size and shape. Conversely, EMOBA — the Erie Minority-Owned Business Accelerator — is multicellular. Nonetheless, it is giving shape to the sizable dreams of Erie's entrepreneurs of color.
The accelerator is part of the larger Erie Urban Entrepreneur Program, which is financed by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) and managed by Bridgeway Capital. Bridgeway, which has three offices in western Pennsylvania, previously launched a similar accelerator in Pittsburgh with encouraging results. Qualifying applicants receive nine months of mentoring and personalized assistance with a focus on business planning and strategy development. They learn how to discover a customer base, validate the market for their chosen specialty, manage finances, and develop their business and professional network.
Bridgeway has reviewed and considered an impressive 35 applications for its second cohort of EMOBA entrepreneurs, who will begin their nine-month tutelage later this month. Cathryn P. Easterling, director of the Bridgeway Capital Erie Office, is excited to get started.
"This program provides excellent opportunities for emerging and existing minority-owned businesses and truly addresses the barriers that many minority-owned businesses face when navigating entrepreneurship," she said. "I look forward to working with these diverse businesses in the second Erie Minority-Owned Business Accelerator cohort and to see their maturation and impact within our region."
Krystal C. Robinson, who participated in the first cohort, is eager to make good on the investment Bridgeway has made in her and her business, Taste and See All Things Fruit and Veggie while working at Erie Insurance, Robinson was reminded of just how scarce a commodity fresh, healthy food is in Downtown Erie. One lunch break's unquenched smoothie craving became the motivation to change that. She just needed to know how.
"I was able to fully conceptualize the concept of what healthy eating looks like and step into the Erie renaissance effort by working with Bridgeway Capital," she explained. "Introducing Taste and See will enable me to share my passion for nutrition while also receiving developmental support. I want to help Erie look good and feel good because it eats good."
As Robinson nourishes the Erie community with plant-based soups, salads, snacks, slushies, smoothies, the Erie Urban Entrepreneur Program continues to cultivate the growth of small businesses with a streamlined, supportive approach.
Perry Wood, executive director at ECGRA, has no doubts about its importance: "The key revitalizing factor is small, urban businesses beginning to provide jobs for the neighborhood, particularly young people; an entrepreneur providing fresh food for her community, a barber inspiring young people to continue their education, a high-quality child care center within walking distance of home—that's the community development we are trying to spur,"
Added Easterling: "While in a pandemic, businesses are still planning, growing, and projecting. Their hard work is representative of the Erie community's resiliency."
Fruits and vegetables are subject to seasonal availability, but quitting was never on the menu to begin with.
Matt Swanseger is can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org