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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Comcast program helps BIPOC-owned businesses

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Daniel and Suzette Sweatt didn’t even get to unpack at the new location for their fitness center in March 2020 before they had to close the doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It took a few weeks, but the Sweatts implemented a virtual model for SweattBoxx Wellness Center on North Post Road by the end of the month. Still, rent was due, and their revenue stream was on pause.

“You had to learn to pivot very quickly,” said Suzette, who temporarily went on unemployment.

Suzette said they took advantage of their large parking lot for socially distanced, outdoor workouts in the summer, and the fitness center now operates on a hybrid model since gyms haven’t been allowed to fully reopen.

The pandemic actually led to some positives as a new customer base got involved through the virtual model, but then there are those challenge that many business owners have had to grapple with over the last 10 months. There was rent, lackluster internet, technology issues — and limited business.

SweattBoxx Wellness Center got a boost recently from the Comact RISE program, which provides grants, marketing, creative, media and technology services to companies owned by Black, Indigenous and people of color, otherwise known as BIPOC.

Suzette said the program afforded their business a new laptop, two iPads, security cameras, internet for a year and Wi-Fi access for customers.

Applications for the next phase of the RISE program are due Feb. 7 online, but there will be more phases in the future.

In order to qualify, a business must be at least 51% BIPOC-owned and operated, independently owned and operated, registered to conduct business in the U.S., located within the Comcast Business or Effectv service area, and have been in operation for at least one year. (Effectv is the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable.)

Home-based services aren’t eligible for a technology makeover but are eligible for other services.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, between February and April 2020, the number of active Black-owned businesses declined by 41%, compared to 21% for the general population.

RISE is one of several programs launched during the pandemic to address the needs of Black and other minority business owners.

Black Onyx Management, a Black-owned management consulting firm, launched Indy Accompliceship in November 2020 to help businesses and other organizations make pledges related to, among other things, spending money with Black contractors.

Eli Lilly, Citizens Energy Group and other businesses started the Indy Racial Equity Pledge in October 2020. Similar to Indy Accompliceship, businesses set specific goals such as spending a certain amount of money with Black-owned businesses.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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