Andre Andrews’ Comcast 2020 RISE grant allowed him to make a 30-second commercial for Dre’s Water Ice and Ice Cream. Now he’s preparing to open a West Philadelphia storefront and a North Philadelphia manufacturing facility in buildings his company owns.
Anitria “The Philly Cake Lady” Odum’s Comcast 2021 RISE grant gave 4 Every Occasion Cakes & Cupcakes a technology make-over that included multiple iPads that function as cash registers, drastically reducing customers’ waiting times.
Kimberly McGlonn used her 2022 Comcast RISE grant to buy industrial sewing machines and marketing help for Grant Blvd, her sustainable clothing brand.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and are essential to building strong and thriving local communities.” — Comcast’s Loren Hudson
“What small business doesn’t need this?” muses McGlonn, who took time for a quick conversation as she planned a fashion show and a pitch competition Grant Blvd hosted last weekend. “Being a small business owner is incredibly hard. What Comcast is doing is offering an emotional boost as well as a financial boost.”
Investing in small business success
Comcast RISE was launched in 2020 as a way to boost struggling small businesses, focusing on diversity, inclusion and community investment. In just a few years, it has awarded more than 13,000 small businesses around the country monetary, marketing and technology grants in excess of $110 million. (Disclosure: Comcast is also a supporter of The Citizen.)
Applications for Comcast RISE 2023 grants are being accepted now through June 30.
This year, the program will support 500 small businesses in five cities, including 100 companies based in Philadelphia. Eligibility requirements include being an independent Philadelphia-based business open for at least three years with fewer than 100 employees. Winners will be announced in late August.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and are essential to building strong and thriving local communities,” says Loren Hudson, SVP and Chief Diversity Officer at Comcast.
The 2023 Comcast RISE grant recipients will receive a multi-faceted support package that includes business consultation services, education opportunities, technology upgrades, and/or assistance in marketing and media. Business owners also receive a grant of $5,000 that comes with no strings attached.
Past winners include retail stores, childcare centers, cleaning services, barber shops — and bakeries like 4 Every Occasion Cakes & Cupcakes, a business on the Mayfair/Oxford Circle border.
“The cool thing is they asked us how they could help us. We already had our marketing in place so we focused on technology needs, ” says Kyle Odum, whose wife opened the baked good emporium about 10 years ago. “And it all still works. Now we’re expanding and we’re doing shipping.”
Before receiving the grant, the bakery had a single cash register and, as a result, often a long line of waiting customers. It had a single desktop computer tucked in an office that only a few people had access to, and no laptops.
“The cool thing is they asked us how they could help us.” — Kyle Odum
The Comcast RISE technology make-over included multiple ipads that function as cash registers; multiple on-site desktop computers store for employees; and laptops for quick access to customer orders.
“It’s helped us tremendously,” Anitria Odum says.
RISE stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment.” It’s part of Comcast’s Project UP, an initiative committed to advancing digital equity for 50 million people through a $1 billion commitment from the company. Businesses that apply for Comcast RISE packages are asked about their contributions to their community’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Andre Andrews says Comcast’s marketing boost still has impact.
“After that year, our corporate events increased by 42 percent and it’s been growing ever since,” says Andrews, whose “non-traditional nostalgia” ice cream flavors include banana pudding, sweet potato pie, and strawberry shortcake. “Marketing and advertising is always a plus for a business of any size, but sometimes small businesses like myself don’t know who to turn to and they’re struggling to manage the day to day.”
The company has also put its mouths where its money is, hiring Dre’s Water Ice and Ice Cream for corporate events. Andrews says his wife and four children help out during these functions, even if they’re only acting as taste testers. “It’s a family affair,” he notes.
McGlonn says Comcast sets an example for how businesses need to stand together to help each other succeed.
“It’s important to see big companies standing in solidarity with small businesses,” she says. “Now it’s about getting other people to invest in Philly the way Comcast invests in Philly.”
Applications for the Comcast RISE 2023 are due June 30. Go here for more information, and to apply for a Comcast RISE grant.
MORE ON SMALL BUSINESSESPhoto courtesy of Dre's Water Ice, by @hautegirlfresh