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The Columbus Foundation Announces $2.6 Million in Program Related Investments to Black-Owned and Black-Led Central Ohio Businesses

Five businesses selected to receive first investments through The Columbus Foundation’s Equitable Small Business Fund

Columbus, OH (December 12, 2022)—The Columbus Foundation today announced that it has awarded a total of $2.6 million in Program Related Investments (PRIs) to five Black-owned and Black-led businesses serving the central Ohio region. The five businesses—Aventi Enterprises LLC, Embedded Services, The Mezzanine Fund, Our Hospitality Group LLC, and Prospera Advisory Group—are the first to receive funding through The Columbus Foundation’s Equitable Small Business Fund.

Launched in May 2022, the Equitable Small Business Fund is an effort to help close the racial wealth gap in the region by increasing access to capital and services for entrepreneurs of color—in particular, Black-owned and Black-led businesses. The Equitable Small Business Fund leverages PRIs that catalyze the flow of patient and flexible capital to support businesses owned by people of color and advance mission-aligned organizations and leaders building the small business community. A PRI could be made in the form of many different financing vehicles; in this case, all five investments are below-market loans.

“Small business owners need access to capital to grow their businesses. Yet historically, entrepreneurs of color have faced systemic barriers when trying to secure capital, and they continue to face many of the same barriers today,” said Douglas F. Kridler, President and CEO of The Columbus Foundation. “The investments made by the Equitable Small Business Fund provide Black-owned and Black-led businesses access to opportunity, helping to chip away at existing inequities and build a vibrant, diverse small business ecosystem in our community.”

The Equitable Small Business Fund is part of The Columbus Foundation’s ongoing commitment to racial equity. In 2020, The Columbus Foundation committed $5 million for PRIs through the Fund. PRIs are used by foundations to invest in solutions to strengthen the community, with the potential to recycle those dollars for new investments.

"Through their entrepreneurial spirit, ingenuity, and expertise, those selected to receive PRIs from the Equitable Small Business Fund have demonstrated a strong commitment to building a more inclusive and equitable small business environment in central Ohio."

Committee member Elizabeth Blount McCormick

The Columbus Foundation has assembled a committee consisting of small business champions to oversee evaluation and decision-making for investments. Committee members include Sandra Moody Gresham, Dehan Enterprises LLC; Anthony Joseph, White Castle System, Inc.; Timmy McCarthy, The Business of Good Foundation; Doug McCollough, City of Dublin and Color Coded Labs; and Elizabeth Blount McCormick, Uniglobe Travel Designers.

“Through their entrepreneurial spirit, ingenuity, and expertise, those selected to receive PRIs from the Equitable Small Business Fund have demonstrated a strong commitment to building a more inclusive and equitable small business environment in central Ohio,” said committee member Blount McCormick.

The Columbus Foundation partnered with Next Street—a national firm that mobilizes capital, customers, and capabilities for small businesses and entrepreneurs that have been systemically held back—to develop and implement the small business PRI strategy. Next Street previously worked with the City of Columbus to help develop the Columbus Small Business Agenda in partnership with regional stakeholders. The Columbus Foundation’s work builds upon these previous efforts.

More information on the Equitable Small Business Fund, including details about how entities can apply for funding, can be found here. Applications are currently being accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis.

Equitable Small Business Fund investees:

Aventi Enterprises LLC offers full-service support to small businesses in central Ohio, including business strategy consulting, business planning training, and identifying capital sources and contract opportunities. Through the Aventi Loan Fund, Aventi Enterprises will distribute small loans for women- and minority-owned businesses in Columbus to help them accelerate their growth. Led by Deonna Barnett, CEO & Managing Consultant, Aventi Enterprises' involvement in various Columbus initiatives, such as the City of Columbus' Small Business Agenda, and partnerships with key players demonstrate how proximate the company is to the needs and gaps in the community.

Embedded Services, led by Co-Founders and Managing Partners Kumi D. Walker and Shereen Agrawal, is a go-to market and business strategy practice focused on building a more diverse future in technology. Leveraging experience earned in Silicon Valley, Embedded Services, based in Columbus, aims to enable early and late stage technology businesses to achieve sustainable growth through partnerships.

The Mezzanine Fund supports diverse-owned businesses by funding a growth path to the lower middle market, which The Mezzanine Fund defines as businesses with between $10 million and $100 million in revenue. The company aims to transform traditional financing systems to foster an eco-system of larger diverse-owned businesses. The Mezzanine Fund, led by Managing Director Anne Richie, is committed to reflecting diversity at all levels, including its managers, service providers, and the majority of its loan approval committee. Although based in Cleveland, The Mezzanine Fund will intentionally focus on Franklin County to capture growth opportunities and offset the number of single-employer firms.

Our Hospitality Group LLC is a restaurant group that opened Marvin’s, a Black-owned restaurant, in Columbus’ Brewery District in July 2022. Co-owned by Charles Daniels, Mario Hairston, and Marlon Platt, Marvin’s will contribute to the revitalization of the Brewery District. The management and ownership of Our Hospitality Group is well-connected with the Columbus community, and demonstrates clear vision, experience in the industry, and a track record of success.

Prospera Advisory Group makes direct, real estate-backed loans to small business owners and real estate investors who do not qualify for conventional financing. To date, 92 percent of its investments have focused on under-resourced ZIP codes in Franklin County. Led by Managing Partners Ralph Abbott and Richard Adiansingh, Prospera Advisory Group fills a unique role in the entrepreneurial support ecosystem, providing “patient capital” in the $100,000 to $500,000 range to businesses and organizations with $2 million or less in revenue and with credit score issues.

About The Columbus Foundation

The Columbus Foundation, one of the top 10 community foundations in the United States, serves more than 3,000 individuals, families, and businesses that have created unique funds and planned gifts to make a difference in the lives of others through the most effective philanthropy possible.

December 12, 2022