M&T donates $75K to effort to help Black entrepreneurs recover from pandemic

M&T Bank has donated $75,000 in seed money to help the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers University launch a new fund to help Black entrepreneurs recover from the effects of the pandemic.

CUEED, based at the Rutgers Business School in Newark, will leverage the money from M&T to raise additional funding from other private and philanthropic sources. The center’s goal is to raise $250,000 to pilot its NJ BEST Patient Capital Fund, which will make low-cost, non-dilutive capital, recoverable grants of $25,000 to $50,000 available to selected Black-owned High-Impact Vital Enterprises — retail and service businesses essential to the viability of their communities.

Tom Comiskey, M&T Bank president for New Jersey, said the bank was excited to contribute to such a worthy aim.

“The pandemic has exacerbated challenges for Black entrepreneurs, making it increasingly difficult to secure capital for their businesses,” he said. “Essential to the foundation of New Jersey’s economy, M&T Bank is proud to support these business owners through the NJ BEST Patient Capital Fund.”

Rutgers Business School Dean Lei Lei expressed appreciation for M&T Bank’s willingness to provide the funding to fuel CUEED’s efforts.

“We are grateful for M&T’s generous investment in a fund that CUEED has created to assist vital Black-owned businesses and to ensure that our communities remain economically strong,” she said. “At Rutgers Business School, we believe we should play a role in helping to strengthen our communities. With the commitment of partners like M&T Bank, CUEED plays a critical role in our ability to have that social impact.”

CUEED Executive Director Lyneir Richardson said the purpose of the new fund is to strengthen and enhance the efforts of NJ BEST, a program funded by the U.S. Cares Act to enable the Small Business Development Center offices and other community-based groups in New Jersey to help 25 Black-owned High-Impact Vital Enterprises recover from the economic turmoil of the past year.

“It is well documented that Black business owners desperately needed financial resources, in addition to technical assistance and entrepreneurial management consulting, to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and position their businesses to thrive in the post-pandemic economy,” he said.

While government programs to address the needs of small businesses were announced, including the federal Paycheck Protection Program and the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans, these resources have proven to be too small scale or prohibitively difficult for Black-owned businesses to access, Richardson said. Flexible capital from the private sector will be beneficial, he said.

In addition to piloting the BEST Fund, CUEED will partner with the NJ BEST program to work with owners of HIVEs in creating plans to stabilize and grow their businesses. It also will collaborate with subject experts, professional service providers and the New Jersey Small Business Development Corp. offices with on-the-ground knowledge of the needs of HIVEs.

“This work will create a path to recovery, long-term success and resilience for Black businesses and Black communities,” Richardson said.