NEW BRITAIN – Ordering a slice of pizza from Family Brick Oven Pizza Truck for lunch Friday, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz highlighted a $700,000 grant program that will help women-owned businesses throughout the state during the pandemic.
“We realized that women-owned businesses, particularly minority women-owned businesses, were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” Bysiewicz said. “So we wanted to help these business owners by offering both grant money and the technical assistance needed to go through the application process.
The pizza truck was parked at DiLoreto Magnet School in New Britain and school workers trickled out to order their lunch. Owner Angela Bonenfant Sinnott, a grant recipient, said the funds provide a lot of support for her business and every dollar goes toward her materials, equipment, services and employees.
“I grew up in New Britain, this is my hometown and where I want to give back,” Sinnott said. “And for us to get the support we need in order to give back has been a blessing, that’s the only way to describe this experience.”
Research showed of the more than 60,000 Connecticut businesses that secured federal loans for covid-19 relief, 78% were male-owned; 84% were white-owned; 7% were Asian-owned; 6% were Hispanic-owned; and 3% were Black-owned, according to the state.
The Equity Match Grant Program is administered by the Women’s Business Development Council, in collaboration with the state. It will help entrepreneurs in accessing the capital needed to build banking relationships, improve credit and overcome challenges related to the pandemic, especially in the neediest parts of the state. The state Department of Economic and Community Development will match the funds raised by the WBDC dollar-for-dollar. To apply, visit: ctwbdc.org
Since December, the program has helped 56 local businesses. This is the second round of grants awarded and Sinnott is one of 44 women-owned businesses to receive a share of the funding.
The New Britain native started her Southington-based family operated catering service in 2016 through a rented kitchen space and soon found the need to expand its equipment and space. When the pandemic hit, she got involved with the paycheck protection program through WBDC, who in turn introduced her to the grant program.
“We created the program not only to help businesses avoid getting into debt, but to leverage support from both the public and the private sector to pool all of our resources together,” said Fran Pastore, CEO and founder of WBDC. “It’s also a way to help come up with innovative or creative business ideas that are sustainable and creates new revenue streams, rather than just a one-time push.”
The program offers grants between $2,500 to $10,000. Pastore said it also requires business owners to provide up to 25% of the grant from their own money in matching funds. “This is not a handout, but a hand up,” she said.
Because women are more likely to be unemployed due to the pandemic, especially those who work in retail, food, travel or tourism industry, Pastore said it is extremely important to be able to provide the support they need.
Bysiewicz agreed, stating there have been a record number of women entrepreneurs starting their own businesses due to losing their jobs.
“We haven’t seen this many business filings in years,” she said, “which makes this program even more vital because every dollar goes to the business, which goes back to the community.”
Webster Bank was one of the first local organizations to commit to the program by contributing $100,000.
“We always love finding ways to help small businesses, especially women-owned businesses,” said Kathy Luria, senior vice president of community affairs for Webster Bank. “We were really excited about this because it’s supporting business owners and a team of experts to help those business owners, so it was really easy for us to want to be involved.”
To Sinnott, she couldn’t be more grateful for the grant program to be there for fellow small business owners.
“The WBDC is really there for us. They help you through everything in the process,” she said. “They’re a literal lifeline.”
The next round of grant funding will be announced mid-June.