Rebuild for the Future Fund Supports Black Women-Owned Twin Cities Businesses

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The civil unrest sparked by the murder of George Floyd resulted in significant property damage to cultural corridors where Black, Indigenous and People of Color work and own businesses. That’s why Greater Twin Cities United Way, in partnership with The Minneapolis Foundation and the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, established the Twin Cities Rebuild for the Future Fund.

The fund provides immediate support to small businesses owned by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) for things like repairs, equipment, technology, building materials and relocation expenses related to the damage.

Businesses in the three hardest-hit districts — the West Broadway and Lake Street corridors in Minneapolis and University Avenue in St. Paul — were prioritized. Organizations were invited to apply for funding, and grants were distributed to nonprofits and community organizations supporting small business development.

One of these community organizations is the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance (BWWA), which helps cultivate strategies, create wealth, and change the lives of Black women in the Twin Cities. Since its creation, BWWA has served more than 3,500 Black women and inspired the creation of more than 200 Black women-owned businesses.

“We bridge the gap for Black women as a way to move the economic dial in the Black community for both individuals and families,” said Kenya McKnight-Ahad, Founder and President of Black Women’s Wealth Alliance. “Our framework is rooted in Black culture and it’s about prosperity, not poverty.”

After the murder of George Floyd and subsequent civil uprising, the alliance received a $70,000 grant from the Twin Cities Rebuild for the Future Fund to help local Black women-owned businesses that were damaged. In order to decide how to distribute the funding, BWWA had a committee of small business owners, community members, staff, and board members review applications and make recommendations.

“For many of these Black women, their business was their primary source of income,” said McKnight-Ahad. “Not everyone has access to the resources necessary to replace things or make repairs, so we are using this financial assistance to help keep Black women-owned small businesses out of the danger zone.”

One of the businesses receiving Rebuild funds is 4 Christyles Closet, a women’s clothing boutique which used to be a brick-and-mortar business off West Broadway. Between COVID-19 and the civil unrest, owner Crystal Lerma made the decision to close her physical store and go mobile, selling at pop-up shops. Her dream is to convert a truck into a mobile boutique that she can drive around the city.

“It’s been very difficult to keep my business afloat this year,” said Lerma. “I was so excited and happy when I found out about the Twin Cities Rebuild for the Future Fund assistance. It helped me order more inventory for my boutique so I can keep it going, have income, and further my dream.”

“We are appreciative of this grant so we can help Black women who are navigating challenges to keep their businesses open in addition to navigating daily racial and economic disparities,” said McKnight-Ahad. “We also have to think about the long-term plan to address these disparities, too.”

Greater Twin Cities United Way, The Minneapolis Foundation and the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation are also partnering on a multi-year collaboration with the goal of transforming the criminal justice system.

Take Action: To learn more about how you can make a difference in our community through a financial contribution, visit gtcuw.org/donate.

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