We recently launched the First Dollar Program to provide early-stage capital to Louisville’s Black and Brown entrepreneurs. Through partnerships, Render Capital will provide critical “first dollar” grants to early-stage entrepreneurs who lack capital access due to historic and systemic inequality. The First Dollar program provides $5,000 grants to businesses at the earliest stage of business development—when capital investment is most critical. In this Q&A series with our First Dollar Program partners, we will introduce the four local, black-led partner organizations. Their close work with entrepreneurs makes them vital in facilitating the disbursement of the grant funds. We ask each partner about their work, recent wins and the future of their organization. This is what Change Today, Change Tomorrow had to say:
Tell us a little bit about the Change Today Change Tomorrow.
Change Today, Change Tomorrow is devoted to eradicating barriers that plague the Black community and other marginalized populations in Education, Food Justice and Public Health. We protect, defend, and meet the needs of those who have been counted out. We are a force of disruptors and changemakers that believe in #communitypower.
How do you support black entrepreneurs in the Louisville/Southern Indiana region?
Change Today, Change Tomorrow sponsors Pocket Change, a black business empowerment hub. Pocket Change offers black business owners exposure to new customers while offering business development through our monthly small business classes. Change Today, Change Tomorrow intentionally shops, supports and uplifts black-owned local businesses and challenges others with our #changeyourspending campaign via social media.
As a First Dollar Program partner, you’re working with businesses at the earliest stages of business development. What trends have you seen in early-stage funding for black entrepreneurs?
Black business owners are denied access and the same exposure white business owners are granted. Black business owners many times work from home in the beginning stages and learn as they develop, they pour personal dollars into their business and are disproportionately denied funding as they do not have the necessary collateral. There are many barriers to business development for black business owners.
How will First Dollar funds support your work?
First Dollar funds will allow for Change Today, Change Tomorrow through Pocket Change to provide funds to attendees of the session one small business class. From the conception of the class the goal was to invest in class participants. These funds will create inaugural support for five local black businesses and we can elevate these grants and challenge others to continue to intentionally support black businesses.
Why is it important to support the development of black businesses specifically?
It is important to support black businesses as black folks have been denied resources and access yet still own and operate successful businesses. Supporting black businesses help decrease the wealth gap and build generational wealth, often handed down to white folks, while building community. Change Today, Change Tomorrow intentionally and unapologetically supports black-owned businesses from the coffee we drink in the office to branding and marketing. Beyond supporting these businesses we continually uplift and recommend them.
How has the work of your organization shifted in the last year due to COVID and increased public attention toward racial injustice?
Covid-19 and racial injustice uprisings in Louisville and beyond have helped push the already existent needs to the public eye, in the words of Malcolm X, “when white America catches a cold black America has pneumonia” and we have acted with intentional actions and continue to provide barrier-free access. We continue to be disrupters, which includes calling out and holding racist community organizations accountable for the harm in which they have caused black people.
Our emergency-free grocery program was supposed to last seven days yet through #communitypower and continued support will be one year old very soon. We have been able to double many other outreaches including unhoused and increasing youth mentoring and tutoring programs in partnership with 93 Nightz and Watch Us Grow. We will have a dirt-to-dinner gardening program in partnership with Parkland Boys and Girls Club.
Can you share an example of a recent “win” for Change Today Change Tomorrow?
Change Today, Change Tomorrow received a six-figure reparations check from an anonymous donor. We would like to celebrate this yet challenge other folks to pay reparations to black-led, black-serving nonprofits within the community. We urge corporations and other community members to pay reparations to make a step towards righting the wrongs of the historical racist practices that have directly harmed black folks.
What preconceived notions exist in your line of work?
Within the nonprofit sector, there is a preconceived notion that nonprofit means no money, while there are million-dollar nonprofits. Change Today, Change Tomorrow is intentional about paying a living wage along with offering grocery stipends, therapy reimbursement, lunch and other great amenities to all staff. We believe you are human first and this job is not intended to consume your life, with this we reserve thirty percent of funding for operating expenses.
What would you say to individuals/organizations that want to support the work of Change Today Change Tomorrow?
We are just getting started on creating barrier-free access and disrupting systems. We have long-term plans for change, thank you for your continued support and continue reminding folks to redirect dollars to black-owned nonprofits and businesses.
What’s on the horizon for Change Today Change Tomorrow in 2021? And what gives you hope for the future?
Change Today, Change Tomorrow has plans to expand staff and expand our current 20+ programs and initiatives, we would love to serve the entire community of Louisville and beyond. We continue to fundraise and each of our programs have long-term goals. By the end of 2021, we will have published a community assessment, and own a house for transitional housing. We hit the ground running and have not stopped and have no plans to until the system is recreated to truly uplift black voices.
Knowing that someone beyond Kentucky organically searched and found us to provide reparations gives hope that we are beyond conversations and at the point of change, this is just the beginning to continue to follow us on this journey at change-today.org.