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New federal grant will support Idaho’s Hispanic, Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs

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Nez Perce Tribe citizen Stacia Morfin, left, shows items from her Lewiston business, Traditions Gift Shop. (Courtesy of Diane Bevan)

Resources awarded to the Idaho Hispanic Foundation will include financial assistance, language translation services

After 100 hours of work on the application and support from Idaho’s governor and congressional delegation, the Idaho Hispanic Foundation became one of 11 recipients of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator Pilot Program grants, which will provide funding for seven organizations focused on supporting Hispanic, Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs across Idaho.

Diane Bevan, chief executive officer of the Idaho Hispanic Foundation and executive director of the Idaho Women’s Business Center, worked on the grant application in July and received the official notice of award on Wednesday. As a Tier 2 awardee, the foundation will receive up to $2.5 million in funds.

The Community Navigator Pilot Program is a $100 million program from the federal American Rescue Plan Act that aims to reduce barriers faced by underserved and underrepresented people trying to grow or start a business.

The grant is based on a “hub and spoke” model Bevan calls Idaho Connect, where the Women’s Business Center will serve as the hub providing training for the “spoke” organizations, who will reach out directly to those who would benefit from services such as access to financial assistance, financial literacy counseling, government contracts support and language technical assistance, particularly to the Hispanic community. The seven spoke organizations include the Idaho Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Veteran Entrepreneur Alliance, the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Idaho Black Community Alliance, Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, North Idaho Native Fund and the Nez Perce Tribe.

Leaders of Idaho organizations say grant will play a vital role in outreach efforts

Enrique Rivera, chief executive officer of the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told the Idaho Capital Sun in an email that the chamber expects to receive $250,000 in grant funds and will use them to expand resources and education programs and to assist with the translation of materials for community members who prefer to learn and engage in Spanish.

“We also plan to utilize this grant opportunity to strengthen our partnerships in underserved communities, especially in agricultural areas, where we are seeing an increase in entrepreneurship in Hispanic communities,” Rivera said. “(We are) committed to supporting underserved entrepreneurs on to the path of economic recovery, and this grant will play a vital role in helping us accomplish this goal.”

Trish Walker, founder and chief executive officer of the Idaho Black Community Alliance, said she worked with Bevan to start the Alliance during the grant application process. Walker was born and raised in Idaho and started a Black Employee Network during the years she worked at Micron in Boise, and served as the employee resource group lead for Black employees. Walker is also an operations manager for the annual Boise Soul Food Festival, and she said one of her first priorities with the grant funding will be to reach out to those 40 vendors to see how she might be able to support them.

“Some of it will be financial support, some will be training, or learning how to better brand their business,” Walker said. “Some of them just need a website, or resources on how to start a business, how to grow a business, how to market a business and reach a bigger audience.”

Some businesses don’t have a brick and mortar shop and want one, she said, while others conduct business online and need help with that. Walker also hopes to use the grant in a way that facilitates the promotion, preservation and appreciation of Black culture in Idaho communities.

While Black business owners are a small community in Idaho, Walker said the grant will be helpful to those entrepreneurs and the people who want to support them.

“It helps the Black businesses to be able to sustain, it helps them to be able to be successful. It helps us as a community, it helps us as a state because it pours those resources back into Idaho and it allows us to be able to grow,” Walker said. “It does so much for diversity, equality and inclusion, and that’s my whole goal is just to make this state more diverse, make equality for all and just include everyone.”

Idaho congressional delegation wrote joint letter of support for grant award

Bevan said her grant application was the only one from Idaho, and it was selected out of 700 applicants. She said this was the first grant she has worked on that required a letter of support from a state elected official, which she received not only from Gov. Brad Little, but from Idaho’s entire congressional delegation as well.

“All four of our delegation members banded together and wrote a joint letter to approve Idaho for this opportunity,” Bevan said.

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The grant will include enough funding to pay for one full-time employee for two years for each participating organization, as well as three to four positions for the Women’s Business Center to administer the program.

“It’s going to be one of the most inclusive projects that Idaho has ever seen,” Bevan said. “… We know for a fact that there are Native American, Latino, members of many of our underserved communities that did not get any access to (recent) federal funding. Some of them don’t have email, technology, broadband, so this is going to be a huge team effort to reach out to entrepreneurs and really connect them to all the resources that Idaho really has. We are very rich in business resources, but we also have a very large community of underserved residents.”

The launch date for the project is Dec. 1, Bevan said, and she hopes to have an official kickoff event around the same date.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state.