Meta and Grammy Award winner Ciara are partnering to help 10 small businesses owned by Black women ahead of Black History Month.
The 10 businesses will get six weeks of training from Meta about how to market their company on Instagram and Facebook as well as "$100,000 in ad credits and creative support." The businesses will also be given access to a digital marketing skills certificate created by Meta.
"The ten businesses I've nominated are dear to me because they embody determination, community, empathy, and empowerment. The success of Black-owned small businesses is key to wealth building in our community, which is why connecting Black owners to these opportunities is so important to me," Ciara said.
The 10 businesses chosen include Round House Paper, Nicole Grace Collection, The Coil Brush, Boss Branding on a Budget, Aliyah Kamala Enterprises Consulting Agency, The Self Care Suite, Manifest It, Sis, For Our Daughters Beauty, Kyra's Shea Medleys, and Zion's Greek Boutique.
Ree Farrington, the owner of The Coil Brush, said that rounding year two of the pandemic as a small business owner wearing all of the hats while juggling other responsibilities, she felt like she hit a wall with her creativity and digital marketing.
"This opportunity couldn't have come at a more perfect time. To be paired with a digital marketing mentor, to have a 'professional' design my creatives, and a substantial amount in ad credits to test it all out -- it's the wind I needed to give myself and my business a push. I am so grateful and so honored to know that Ciara selected me," Farrington said.
Kyra from Kyra's Shea Medleys' noted that she started her business out of her mom's kitchen in South Central Los Angeles and as a first-generation business owner, had to quickly learn how to run and grow her natural beauty company from ground zero with no mentorship, limited funds, and a lack of resources.
"I have worn every hat in my business and experienced the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship, oftentimes without a seatbelt and no adequate directions to follow. When it comes to marketing in today's age, Meta sets the standard of what that means for thousands of small businesses. Being able to have access to their tutelage and marketing advisors equips us with an unmatched straight-from-source knowledge. This program will help us expand our brand awareness as well as provide understanding of how to utilize our data to make better decisions to better serve current and future customers," Kyra said.
"We are absolutely honored to receive direct mentorship and sponsorship from Meta and Ciara to help push Kyra's Shea Medleys to another level in marketing. Where I come from, these kinds of opportunities are rare and I cannot say enough how grateful I am to be a part of the Meta Elevate Mentorship Circles program."
Some of the businesses selected, like Round House Paper, said they had low expectations of being selected but added that the support from Ciara offered them a boost of confidence.
"There are a lot of programs that say they extend support to small businesses, specifically those run by women of color, but have really high revenue requirements that only more mature businesses could achieve," Round House Paper said.
"It's discouraging. With this opportunity, Meta is giving us the tools we need to inject our businesses with creativity, expertise and a platform bigger than any of us could imagine at this point in our business journey."
Zion's Greek Boutique owner Trice "Zion" Smith-Hampton told ZDNet that they have been a part of the Elevate program for about six months and found it rewarding.
"The amazing coaches I've encountered like Briana Ford and Dennis Gamble provide so many gems and they have such a strong passion to educate and empower business owners like myself. We have two small businesses -- UnBossed Apparel and Zion's Greek Boutique -- and both have been affected by Covid," Smith-Hampton explained.
"Like many other small businesses, we don't have a lot of capital to put into digital marketing and when we do we often lack the knowledge to properly strategize and/or the additional capital to hire a good agency or coach to help maximize our growth potential. The Elevate program has not only given us the tools but also resources to increase our online presence through digital marketing. We can't express our gratitude enough for this opportunity to level up thanks to Meta and Ciara."
Ciara announced the program last fall and urged Black-owned businesses to apply. Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg said their Elevate Training Program "has already reached over 1 million Black business owners and employees" and that they hope to provide more Black-owned small businesses with free digital tools and courses.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that Black small business ownership in the US dropped 41% between February 2020 and April 2020, compared to the 22% seen for all other races. An H&R Block survey of almost 3,000 small businesses last year discovered that 53% of Black business owners saw their revenue drop by half, 16% points higher than White businesses.
The US Small Business Administration admitted that Black-owned businesses were the last to receive PPP loans and many did not get any help at all. Black-owned businesses shut down twice as fast as all other businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meta said it will be spotlighting Black-owned small businesses in February on www.instagram.com/shop