From Caribbean fusion and Jamaican barbecue restaurants to tech incubators and media startups, Richmond’s small businesses are a thriving example of how local communities have long been the heart of America’s creativity and innovation. In fact, across Virginia, an estimated 780,000 small businesses account for 47% of the state’s workforce.1 And those 1.6 million people involved in the commonwealth’s small businesses have a strong ally in managing day-to-day challenges in Richmond’s Metropolitan Business League (MBL). For more than 50 years, the MBL has been committed to ensuring that local entrepreneurs, including women- and minority-owned small businesses, don’t have to go it alone.
Through education, advocacy and access to resources, the MBL promotes economic prosperity for its fast-growing member network, now 850 strong. MBL’s 10 staff members are passionate about offering opportunities to build relationships and learn. “We provide monthly ‘Recharge’ meetings with subject matter experts who share their insights on important trends in the marketplace,” says MBL President and CEO Floyd E. Miller II.
The MBL team also understands all too well how entrepreneurs experience growing pains. “A lot of owners are skilled at their craft but struggle with running a business,” says Miller. Many small businesses find it difficult to gain access to funding. And of course, the pandemic introduced a new set of challenges, with many business contracts either put on indefinite hold or outright canceled.
The events of 2020 led to MBL’s We Care Recovery Project, a $750,000 fund that has assisted more than 300 small businesses through grants, loans and technical assistance training. A $5,000 We Care grant, for example, helped restaurant owner Tierra Terrell pivot to a food truck and catering services after having to shut down her two Richmond locations. A community-based yoga studio that received emergency funding from MBL took up residence in schools, parks, churches and businesses in order to continue operating until it was able to open a studio in November 2021.
Inspired by the success of We Care, the MBL has created a permanent capital access program, providing members with a full suite of options for grants and microloans. Because of MBL’s decades of innovative work, Bank of America presented the association with its 2020 Neighborhood Builder award. “I really want to thank Bank of America for its generous support,” says Miller. “This environment we’re creating is for everyone. And with the support of partners like Bank of America, we can be inclusive — and help as many businesses as possible.”
The support for the Metropolitan Business League is an example of Bank of America’s commitment to help advance racial equality and economic opportunity in local neighborhoods around the country. From entrepreneur funding and expanding home ownership to professional skills training and healthcare access, Bank of America continues to partner with innovative leaders to help communities implement solutions to society’s biggest challenges.