NEW BRITAIN – A city entrepreneur and his innovative downtown enterprise is being recognized on a national scale.
Unknown Clothing at 18 Main St. was one of 21 small businesses across New England selected for Comcast’s new RISE initiative.
One facet of a $100 million diversity, equity and inclusion campaign launched by the company last summer, RISE is focused on helping Black-owned small businesses across America in this first phase.
Unknown Clothing founder Maciah Clark and his business partners, brother Craig Clark and Jeremy Sykes, were thrilled for Comcast’s recognition of their boutique and event space, which opened in 2019.
“It’s an honor,” Clark told the Herald Tuesday. “There were so many people that applied for it, for us to be selected it’s an amazing opportunity and we’re really happy about it.”
RISE, which stands for Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment, launched in October.
The 21 small businesses selected in this first round of recipients represented a wide variety of specialties and communities. All are receiving creative production, media and consulting services from Effectv, the promotional arm of Comcast Cable, and/or technology upgrades from Comcast Business.
Unknown Clothing benefitted from the recent arrival of new phones, internet service, I-pads and computers, as well as free service for the next year.
“They’ve been more than generous,” Clark said of Comcast. “As a small business, any help is amazing, especially while trying to make it through this pandemic.”
Covid-19 has hit small businesses like his hard, with new restrictions, protocol, limited hours and capacity sanctions. But Unknown was just finding its footing as a newer store when the pandemic happened.
“Opening a business in general, you know you’re not going to be making any money for the first couple years,” Clark said of the challenges the team has endured. “You have to put everything in place and start off strong to build clientele.”
While many retail companies have moved completely online in the current climate, Unknown has both a successful website and the brick-and-mortar store in its owners’ hometown.
The store was closed for three months at the beginning of the pandemic, but reopened to provide fashionable facial coverings as well as clothing and accessories for men and women.
Manager of Public Relations for Comcast Business in Connecticut, Elizabeth Walden told the Herald that Unknown was selected for the strength and quality of its applications.
The store’s owners conveyed in detail the concept of their business and how it has been impacted by the pandemic.
“Unknown Clothing is a standalone retail concept and definitely one we wanted to get behind,” Walden said.
According to the National Bureau for Economic Research, the number of African-American-owned businesses dropped by 41% from Feb. to April 2020, compared to the 17% drop in white-owned businesses in that same time frame.
“Fueling the success of small businesses is what our business is all about,” said Paul Savas, vice president of Comcast Business for the company’s Western New England Region. “We partner with them to better understand their needs and what we can do to help them grow. Our success is their success. That’s why, at a time when so many in our small business communities are struggling, it’s incredibly humbling to be able to give back and provide resources to those hardest by the pandemic. We want to help our partners and communities rise.”
The next phase of Comcast RISE is open to small businesses owned by Black people, indigenous people and people of color. The deadline to apply is May 2 and applications are available at ComcastRISE.com.
RISE Recipients will receive marketing assistance, help in the creation 30-second commercials, as well as equipment and technology upgrades with voice and cybersecurity services for up to one year. Additional grants of $10,000 each will be awarded to select small and diverse businesses three to five years old.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.