by Jarquita Brown
In response to COVID-19, Higher Purpose Co established a Black Business Relief Fund to ease the stress of many of its entrepreneurs, farmers, and artists it serves throughout the state. The purpose of this fund is to assist Black entrepreneurs with business resiliency by providing relief grants of up to $5,000.
HPC raised a total of $500,000 that was allocated towards relief grants. On May 6th, entrepreneurs were able to apply for the Black Business Relief Fund. $2,500 was awarded to businesses without physical locations and $5,000 for businesses with physical locations.
Communications Coordinator Jarquita Brown interviewed five Black business owners to see how their business was impacted by COVID-19 and how the relief helped their business. Read their stories below.
Robbie Pollard, Owner of Start 2 Finish, Inc.
Food supply has changed dramatically for many Americans because of COVID-19, and many farmers are adjusting to these dramatic changes. Robbie Pollard is owner and operator of Start 2 Finish, Incorporated, a five and a half acre sustainable vegetable farm located in Marks, Mississippi. “This pandemic has changed the way I do business because we were planning to sell a lot of produce to schools, different restaurants, and a lot of farmers markets, but when COVID hit, we weren’t able to do that so we had to just do things,” Pollard said. “COVID hasn’t really affected how we farm, but it has affected how we sell our produce, and the most challenging part is growing more produce.”
Pollard was recently awarded the Black Business Relief Fund which he says helped him in many ways. “Because of the fund, I have been able to hire two young people, the relief fund has allowed me to be able to pay them and to have them working every day.” Pollard explained that COVID has been a “gift and a curse.” He said although many people have been getting the virus, “it has also been shedding light on local food, local communities and the support of local businesses, and since people don’t want to go out, it’s up to us farmers and growers to provide more produce.”
Pollard added, “I just want to thank the Higher Purpose team for the amazing job they are doing. The relief fund is allowing me to keep going with my business. Growing these fresh foods and being able to hire new workers and get supplies I need with the fund has helped me a lot, so for that I am truly thankful for what you all are doing.”
Nancy Howard, Owner of Nancy’s Beauty Salon
Nancy Howard, owner of Nancy’s Beauty Salon located in Clarksdale, Mississippi, is a recipient of the Black Business Relief Fund. Howard said before learning of the relief fund, she applied for several loans and grants and got denied. Howard has been a beauty salon owner for over 25 years and is also a Cosmetology professor at Coahoma Community College. Because of the pandemic, business slowed down for Howard and she wasn’t able to teach or give hands-on training to her cosmetology students.
Howard learned of the relief fund via Facebook and said she immediately applied. “I would always say a joke that ‘Missing one day of work is like missing seven days of work when you’re self-employed,’ and we’ve missed like 92 days of work!” Howard said. “The Black Business Relief Fund actually helped,” she said. “I spent like $4,000 on rent and utilities for my business, and I heard on the news that some areas didn’t charge rent for businesses, but Mississippi wasn’t one of them.” Howard purchased other things such as disposable capes for the clients, masks, and hand sanitation machines. “This whole thing for us has been an experience.”
Howard said, “I just want to thank Higher Purpose. I think what they are doing for the Black community is an amazing thing, and I’m just thankful for everything they have done for us.”
Arthur Jones, Owner of FITT Academy
Arthur Jones, owner of FITT (Fitness Intensive Tennis Training) Academy located in Madison, Mississippi. At FITT, Jones trains some of the most committed tennis competitors in the Jackson area. When the pandemic hit, all training came to a halt, and Jones was not able to pay rent at his facility nor his employees. “We were expecting 2020 to be the best year ever for FITT, but it hit right during the middle of tennis season, that was a lot of money lost, and our income was just shut.”
Jones said, “Tennis is one of those sports that you can social distance, but because the facility we are at is considered a gym, the gym was completely shut down. No tennis, nothing was really going on, and it was just a tough, tough situation.”
Jones said rent is $2,000 a month and was grateful the relief fund helped. “The grant pays the lease while we are getting back on our feet, and things are starting to pick back up. We are still under restrictions, but I was able to pay one of my workers a salary for helping run the clinic and then pay the lease. That was a blessing for you all to be able to help us with that. I appreciate it so much.”
Barbara Henry, Owner of Select Choice Adult Daycare
Barbara Henry is owner of Select Choice Adult Daycare located in Tutwiler, Mississippi. The adult daycare opened is a place the elderly can go and get health services, hydration treatments, and breakfast or lunch, in a safe, friendly atmosphere. “I’ve always loved the elderly, always, and I did my research and noticed that the city of Tutwiler did not have an adult daycare, and September 30, 2015 was my first official day of opening it up.” Henry said because of the pandemic, she had to shift gears a bit. “The city of Tutwiler decided that since we were working with a certain age group that is more vulnerable to the virus, they asked us to close down for at least a month.”
Thanks to the relief fund, Henry was able to pay her employees their salary. “I received $5,000, and it could not have come at the best time. I was able to call my employees back, and I was able to give them their salary.” Henry learned of HPC and the relief fund while watching Delta Morning News. “I was getting dressed one morning, and saw someone doing an interview in Clarksdale and it said Higher Purpose Co., and they left their phone number and website, so I went on the website and I read, did a little research, and I just said, ‘Lord, why not?’” said Henry.
Henry added,”Getting the fund was a great relief for me because I wasn’t too worried about myself, but when you have employees that are 100% dependent on their job, so I am very, very grateful for Higher Purpose. I just want people to know that Higher Purpose is a Godsent for small Black-owned businesses. I’d never heard of them, but I tell you that I have really, really publicized Higher Purpose especially to Black-owned businesses because there aren’t really any available funds for us.”
Marcus Carr, Owner of Sounds by Kujho
Marcus “DJ Kujho” Carr is owner of Sounds by Kujho, LLC, a mobile DJing service operated in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. DJ Kujho has been crafting his DJing skill set for 10 years over a wide variety of musical styles, venues, and audiences. “I DJ weddings, corporate events, clubs, birthday parties, everything.” Because of the pandemic, Kujho lost around 30 gigs, from weddings and club events. “COVID-19 hit me tremendously because I am a DJ, so I can’t go out, between the time we went into quarantine and now, I’ve lost gigs,” said Kujho.
Kujho learned of Higher Purpose Co through Mississippi artist and playwright, Jana Haynes, who encouraged him to apply for the Black Business Relief Fund. Kujho said, “By the time COVID hit, my computer went out, my air conditioning in my office went out, it’s been crazy!”
I really appreciate the grant, it has helped out tremendously as far as being able to have money to cover everything I need for my business. It definitely helped and I am definitely grateful for it so I do appreciate Higher Purpose Co for the grant.”