SEATTLE, February 22, 2021 – Following the success of the Ready for Business Fund in 2020, GSBA – Washington’s LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce – and Comcast Washington are expanding Ready for Business Fund relief efforts this spring to provide $2,500 grants to additional small businesses seeking financial assistance as the COVID-19 economic crisis continues. The Ready for Business Fund will now expand its reach beyond the Seattle metro area to qualifying small businesses throughout Washington, with $50,000 in additional funding from Comcast and GSBA reprising its role as the program and fund manager.
Grants from the Ready for Business Fund are made possible by securing contributions from companies and individuals. GSBA is seeking to raise $150,000 by Friday, March 26. This round of the Ready for Business Fund was made possible by contributions from BECU, Comcast, T-Mobile, Symetra, Microsoft, and Harborstone Credit Union, but GSBA is still counting on large companies and investors across the state to show up for small businesses in need. During GSBA’s virtual 40th Annual Business & Humanitarian Awards last Thursday, February 18, $10,000 was raised for the fund thanks to generous donations from the public, raising the current total to $60,000.
The Ready for Business Fund was established in the summer of 2020 with a $100,000 investment from Comcast and GSBA as the fund administrator. The fund distributed $2,500 cash grants to more than 60 BIPOC-, LGBTQ-, and women-owned small businesses in the Seattle metro area last year. This second round of funding will also focus on providing support for qualifying small businesses located in rural areas of Washington who have been particularly impacted by the pandemic and lack of proximity to resources.
“Within a month of the Ready for Business Fund application being open last summer, we received nearly 500 applications from local businesses owned by marginalized community members,” said Ilona Lohrey, GSBA VP of Membership & Programs. “The sheer amount of applications we saw as well as the information business owners provided about how they’ve been impacted by the economic challenges of 2020 really painted a picture of how much businesses were struggling, and we know that things have only gotten worse as the pandemic has gone on. $2,500 may not seem like much, but for these small business owners, the grant can be what helps them pay their power bills to keep their lights on, built an outdoor seating area, or pay their staff.”
Business owners who applied to the Ready for Business Fund last year reported a devastating impact, including up to 85 percent annual revenue loss, laying-off employees, and significant loss of business. When asked how the grant money would support their business, the most common responses included necessities such as paying for rent, bills, payroll, and groceries.
“Small businesses are so critical to the fabric of our communities. They need our continued support, especially through the ongoing pandemic and we want to help them,” said Diem Ly, Community Impact Director, Comcast Washington. “That is why we are continuing to partner with GSBA as we have done for some time now and are pleased to expand the Ready for Business Fund. Now small businesses across Washington state, including those in rural areas of Washington may benefit from the relief effort.”
Companies and individuals may find more information and contribute to the Ready for Business Fund by contacting Ilona Lohrey (she/her) at IlonaL@thegsba.org / (206) 363-9188, or visiting the webpage at theGSBA.org/ready-for-business.
BIPOC, LGBTQ, and women-owned small businesses located in Washington that have been in business since March 2, 2020 may find more information at theGSBA.org/ready-for-business.
Applications are open from Monday, March 15 through Friday, March 26, 2021. All grant applicants will be notified the week of April 12. The grant application is short and easy to complete. Submissions will be reviewed by a committee made up of a diverse group of volunteers from the GSBA and at-large community members. All grant recipients will receive wrap-around services from GSBA, including membership and consulting. Qualifying recipients who applied in the summer of 2020 but were not selected for a grant will remain in the pool and be considered during the second round.