Foundation for PR lands $1M SBA grant to support 150 businesses
Foundation for Puerto Rico was awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration as part of the Community Navigators Pilot Program, through which it plans to aid 150 businesses along the island’s northern region over the next two years.
In a news conference, representatives from both entities confirmed that the grant funding, awarded to 51 applicants nationally, is part of a $100 million initiative to provide financial assistance to nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, universities, and other entities, in partnership with the SBA, to support specific sectors of the business community as they assist in the economic recovery process.
“Small business owners face some of the greatest challenges in history in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mark Madrid, associate administrator of the SBA Office of Business Development, who traveled to Puerto Rico for the announcement.
“As we persist through a recovery phase into a thriving phase, it is imperative that we reach out to as many small businesses as possible, from the disabled veteran small business owner in Florida to the rural farmer in Puerto Rico. Precisely, this is why we are here today. We have a strong and actionable commitment to the small business owners in Puerto Rico,” he added.
“The Community Navigator Pilot Program empowers 51 grantees that work with hundreds of local and trusted community organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico to connect small businesses to SBA and other critical resources to recover and thrive. As Administrator [Isabella] Guzman asserts, these trusted community-based organizations will tap into one-on-one, targeted support from programs designed to help them create jobs and drive innovation,” he said.
The Community Navigators Pilot Program will help small businesses receive support and access to federal assistance programs that can help them recover, grow, and respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These funds will directly help our entrepreneurs, especially the smallest of the small, access vital federal funding programs and opportunities,” said SBA Atlantic Regional Administrator Marlene Cintrón, who oversees the federal agency’s operations in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, New York, and New Jersey.
“This visionary recovery effort will assist them to start, scale, and succeed in their communities,” she added during the news conference in San Juan.
SBA has implemented a “Hub and Spoke” model, through which one organization leads the coordination and execution of efforts in collaboration with a network of organizations and resources with close relationships with communities, forging and strengthening connections between business owners and federal, state, and local resources.
In the case of Puerto Rico, Foundation for Puerto Rico will implement this program together with Colmena66, Centro para Emprendedores, INprende, Brands of Americas and Latino Economic Development Center, which will provide technical assistance and companionship using a tiered methodology.
“As Community Navigators, we will implement an innovative business development model of sequential stages. As businesses progress through the program, entrepreneurs work on the different elements to optimize their businesses and access capital with the guidance of leaders within the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” explained Anneliz Oliver, FPR’s program manager, who said the first cohort will include 50 businesses.
“Our goal is to provide the entrepreneur with comprehensive and all-encompassing assistance. We’re confident that, together with this tremendous team of organizations, we will gear entrepreneurs and the northern region toward success,” she said.
Through this grant, FPR will provide training services, technical assistance, and access to resources to underserved small businesses in the northern region of the country, particularly the municipalities of Camuy, Hatillo, Arecibo, Barceloneta, Florida, Manatí, Toa Alta, Vega Alta, Vega Baja, and Dorado.
“We’re extremely excited about the launching of the Community Navigators Pilot Program in Puerto Rico. Our entrepreneurs have had to face great challenges in the past four years, and we have always sought to be by their side and support them on the road to recovery,” said Josué E. Rivera, district director of the SBA in Puerto Rico and the USVI.
“The efforts of grantee organizations, such as Foundation for Puerto Rico, will promote equity in small business support by serving as connectors between business owners, available programs and the technical assistance resources they need to restart and grow their businesses,” he added.
3 chances to submit proposals
Foundation for Puerto Rico will open three calls for proposals during the months of February, July, and December of this year, nonprofit officials said.
The program consists of five stages or steps, starting with the creation of an in-depth analysis of each business, followed by support in the implementation of innovation strategies, creation of a business plan with a marketing strategy, implementation of digital commerce and training in credit, finance, and accounting. In addition, entrepreneurs will receive one-on-one support to apply for financing through products designed based on their realities.
Each of the stages is led and executed by one of the organizations of the network, closing the gap in access to entrepreneurial resources for businesses in Puerto Rico’s northern region.