Marin Small-Business Owners Put Microgrants to Good Use
November 30, 2022
San Rafael, CA – Laila Rezai and Darlin Ruiz have something new in common. They are among the 111 small-business owners in Marin County who received a timely $2,500 grant through an agency partnership dedicated to assisting some of the hardest-hit microbusinesses during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
Rezai, an artist and designer, was among the beneficiaries of the Marin Microbusiness Grant Program to use the one-time-only funds for payment of business debts, new equipment, or other costs from pandemic-related business interruptions. Rezai used the money to relocate from a commercial space to home and purchase a laptop to help reduce ongoing business costs.
“For the first time in almost two decades, I’m enjoying working from home,” Rezai said. “The adjustment also means I’ll have a smaller carbon footprint since I don’t need to commute.”
The Marin Microbusiness Grant Program was funded by the State of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA). The County of Marin, the Marin Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and Dominican University of California partnered on program oversight. The partnership was strengthened by the strategic connections made with more than a dozen local nonprofit organizations that facilitated the connection with microbusiness owners with a gross annual revenue less than $50,000.
Medina, who runs a house cleaning service, was connected to the grant program by way of an in-person fair coordinated by Canal Alliance and attended by SBDC. He said it came as a blessing as he continues to struggle to find work. “I clean houses on my own account, but after the pandemic work is and remains very scarce,” Medina said. He used the funds to purchase cleaning supplies and print business cards.
“I really needed a vacuum cleaner, but they are quite expensive. With that (grant) money I was able to get one,” Medina said.
The application period opened March 23 and closed June 30. Out of 211 applications, 148 were deemed qualified for the grants after a review process. A random lottery, utilizing a verified website, was used to select the recipients. The grants were distributed this fall to a diverse group of businesses from throughout the county with these overall statistics:
- 61% of awardees were women
- 5 were military veterans
- 51% were minorities
- 50% came from the fields of art/entertainment; professional or technical services; and housecleaning and janitorial.
- 50% were located in San Rafael, Novato, and West Marin.
Miriam Karell of the Marin SBDC said the community-led approach led to a great deal of the grant program’s success. “Some of our lessons learned include the importance of partnering with local agencies to offer in-person support at events, providing culturally appropriate interpretation support, and spending time with the applicants to help them understand the process and filling out the application with them.”
Jamillah Jordan, Marin County Equity Director, was especially pleased that more than half of the funds were allocated to minority-owned businesses, “especially given only 27% of our population is made of people who identify as a person of color,” she said.
“This funding made a difference for these business owners,” Karell said. “As we look at the data of who applied and received the grants, we were pleased our efforts were able to offer support to underserved populations.”
Creating the local program and accepting the state funding was contingent on the County of Marin’s participation.
For more information, visit MarinSBDC.org.
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