“Partner to Empower” program encouraging Black and minority-owned businesses to open stores at Fox River Mall

GRAND FALL (NBC 26) — “As a black woman, I have been affected by systemic racism my entire life,” said Michelle Isabel, vice president of business development at Brookfield Properties.

In 2020, Isabel led the Partner to Empower program, which provides resources and funding for Black and minority-owned businesses to open physical stores. After the death of George Floyd in 2020, she says she thought about what she could do to support the black community.

“I wanted to do more,” Isabel said. “At that point, I thought ‘how can I use what I know, use my skills that I’ve developed over the years, use the influence that I have? “”

She designed the program to help minority-owned businesses create lasting success. The program launched at Fox River Mall this month and provides one-on-one business owner advice, networking and financing for store construction expenses.

“We want to make sure people have a good start with capital, knowing that one of the reasons small businesses fail in the first six months to a year is lack of start-up capital,” Isabel said. .

The program also includes a four-week retail workshop led by industry experts, free for accepted candidates.

“It’s run by industry professionals, bankers, accountants, recruitment agencies, marketing and advertising people,” Isabel said. “We want to make sure they have the resources to be successful.”

Isabel says there are a number of barriers Black and minority business owners can face that make it difficult to transition from e-commerce to a physical store.

“One is fear,” Isabel said. “Not being bankable, not understanding what good credit is, not understanding that no credit is the same as bad credit, not understanding trade insurance or business taxes.”

The program launched in 5 states in 2021 and is currently launching in 10 other states. By the end of the year, Isabel says the program will have reached the entire United States. The goal of the program is not only to diversify the company’s malls, but also to be the resource small business owners need to take their business to the next level.

“Brookfield wanted to make sure we were on board to help break down the barriers that systemic racism has created for generations and provide resources to Black and minority business owners to help them build that generational wealth,” Isabel said. .

Applications for the program are open until March 18. For more information and to apply for the program, you can visit brookfieldproperties.com

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