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Two Programs Boost Opportunities for Diverse, Small Businesses in Birmingham, Central Alabama

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By: Alabama News Center Staff

Two Birmingham-area organizations have announced new cohorts supporting small businesses and minority entrepreneurs.

REV Birmingham announced the first round of Black business owners who will receive funding and professional services through its Magic City Match program, with support from Birmingham-based Prosper.

And Central Alabama Redevelopment Alliance (CARA), based in Fairfield, recently announced the launch of its fourth cohort of the Central Alabama Micro Business Accelerator. The program is designed to provide aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in central Alabama with essential skills, resources and support to accelerate their business growth.

“In our second year of Magic City Match, the response from applicants and the strong support we’ve garnered highlights the need for this program in the Birmingham small business ecosystem,” David Fleming, CEO and president of REV Birmingham, said in a news release. “We are excited and honored to be able to invest in these businesses to help more Black entrepreneurs realize their dreams.”

Building on the success of the pilot Magic City Match in 2022, the program has been refined to support businesses at various stages of growth, offering grants and/or professional service funds, along with business coaching, real estate assistance and additional support tailored to each stage of development.

“With everything learned during the pilot, I am confident that these next-round businesses will gain not just personalized resources but access to the community,” said Dee Manyama, initiatives director at Prosper.

“It cannot be overstated how much expert attention, along with peer support from fellow travelers, can aid in belonging, a healthier form of competition, and feeling genuinely supported and elevated through the entrepreneurial process,” Manyama added. “Magic City Match is an amazing gateway opportunity.”

In all, 20 entrepreneurs were selected through Magic City Match to receive technical assistance or grant awards valued at a combined total of $135,000. Selection committees chose the awardees based on strength of business plan and financial model, experience and potential to succeed in a brick-and-mortar space. Awardees must either be seeking to establish a brick-and-mortar location in Birmingham or already have an established presence in the city.

Additional opportunities are expected to be available in 2024, with Magic City Match’s “Open Stage” applications opening early in the year. The Alabama Power Foundation is among the supporters of Prosper and REV Birmingham.

CARA’s Micro Business Accelerator is a 12-week intensive program designed to equip participants with the knowledge and tools required to navigate the challenges of the competitive business landscape.

The program, which offers a comprehensive curriculum encompassing key areas such as business planning, financial management, marketing strategies and operations is designed to “empower local entrepreneurs and help them thrive in today’s ever-evolving market,” according to a CARA news release.

To date, 36 small businesses have taken part in the accelerator.

Jay Kemp, owner of the sneaker and fashion digital marketplace Stoqpile, said in the CARA news release: “The accounting workshops allow for deeper insight into foundational principles of running a business. These workshops are extremely valuable.”

CARA is focused on supporting economic growth and development in the central Alabama region. According to CARA’s news release, the Micro Business Accelerator provides participants with access to industry experts, experienced mentors and networking opportunities, all aimed at enhancing their business acumen and positioning them for long-term success.

“Since its establishment, CARA has made a real difference in the lives of so many across Alabama’s 7th District by empowering our small business owners with the resources and tools they need to thrive,” U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell said in the CARA news release.

“The micro-business accelerator program provides training, technical assistance and other tools to ensure our small businesses are competitive and viable. I know that this program will continue to impact the economic development of this entire region, and I am proud to support it.”

To learn more about Magic City Match, click here. To learn more about CARA and its programs, click here.