New program to boost Black-owned businesses, downtown Baltimore

Posted at 5:16 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 17:16:43-05

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Small, Black-owned businesses in Baltimore are getting a boost.

"I know that this program will assist, uplift and inspire many of our Black businesses," said Mayor Brandon Scott.

Wednesday, the Downtown Partnership launched the Downtown BOOST Program, to increase Black-owned retail businesses in the heart of the city.

"We want to make sure that the demographics of downtown Baltimore are representative of the demographics of our city," said Shelonda Stokes, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

"Our Black-owned businesses in Baltimore have been disenfranchised and kept out of the process of having equitable support to initiate and sustain their business," said Scott.

The BOOST, or Black-owned & occupied storefront tenancy, program will award five businesses up to $50,000 in grant funding and match them with a physical location at one of the available storefronts pre-identified by the Downtown Partnership, filling vacancies which have increased during the pandemic.

"Working with them to give affordable leases to minority businesses," said Stokes.

The program also connects the businesses to experts for technical, legal, accounting, and marketing advice. It’s presented by Fearless, a Black-owned technology company located downtown.

"We felt it was not only our responsibility and our opportunity but our duty. We had to do this," said Delali Dzirasa, CEO at Fearless.

"If the money is used right, they can definitely grow and expand their businesses. It’s a great opportunity," said Tanisha Taliaferro, the owner of Style Haven women’s boutique.

It’s an opportunity Taliaferro wishes was available for her when she opened Style Haven downtown last year.

"Unlike myself, you don’t have to worry about trying to pull out of your savings or pull out of your retirement," said Taliaferro.

And she’s hopeful it will help build a robust downtown Baltimore.

"I want to see a lot of these vacancies filled. I want to see stores next to my store," said Taliaferro.

The deadline to apply is March 10.