Mercado on Fifth has awarded $21,000 in grants to 23 minority-owned small businesses in the Quad-Cities to go toward the purchase of equipment.
Awardees include restaurants, cleaning companies and retail businesses owned by Black, Latinx, Asian and women entrepreneurs.
Mercado, in partnership with IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union (IHMVCU), launched this cycle of the Minority Business Equipment Grant program in mid-November to provide relief to businesses as they continue to navigate the challenges of COVID-19. Eligible minority-owned businesses in the Quad Cities were encouraged to apply for up to $1,000 for equipment-related purchases, such as repairs to existing equipment, technology upgrades and personal protective equipment (PPE).
"It’s inspiring to see the funds will be used to launch new businesses, grow existing ones and keep some from closing," Mercado on Fifth President Maria Ontiveros said. "This is the largest amount of money we’ve awarded in a single cycle of this program, and it’s coming at a critical time for small businesses."
Mercado on Fifth founder Bob Ontiveros and the Illinois Small Business Development Center at the Quad-Cities Western Illinois University campus created the Minority Business Equipment Grant program in 2018 to assist aspiring entrepreneurs as well as long-standing businesses. During this latest round of grants, additional partners, IHMVCU and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, helped expand the impact.
The program has awarded more than $62,000 to minority-owned businesses for equipment-related purchases over four grant cycles.
Melissa Figueroa, owner of Meli's Pancake House, 1320 5th Ave., Moline, received $1,000 for the purchase of a new flattop grill. Figueroa opened her business Dec. 3. Unforeseen costs and the burden of COVID-19 have made things challenging.
"I was very excited," she said. "It's going to help us out a lot to purchase a flat top grill."
Shay Moore, owner of Moore Divahs, will use her grant money to purchase a new computer for her clothing design business.
"I want to thank the banks and the SBDC for staying in tune with us, making sure businesses here in the Quad Cities can stay afloat to make our dream – and what we want to conquer – come true,” Moore said during Thursday's virtual award ceremony.
To be eligible for funding through this program, business owners must sign up for a free consultation with the Illinois SBDC at WIU-QC, which offers services in English and Spanish. Maria Ontiveros said this ensures businesses are set up for success beyond the grant.
The list of awardees are: Argrow's House; Beauty by Mayra; Cookie Crumbs Daycare; Coya's Cafe; Curry-Out QC; El Patrón in the District; El Pueblo Mexican Grill; FLFMSS, LLC (DBA Blo Blow Dry Bar); Focus Fundamentals LLC; Fresh Start Cleaning; La Flor de Trigo Bakery 2; Manzanita Pros LLC; Martinez Grocery; Meli’s Pancake House; Mi Cielo, LLC d/b/a El Patron Express; Moore Divahs; Noodle House 88, Inc.; Old Mexico Restaurant; Queen Bee Boutique; Senor Julio’s Mexican Flare Cuisine & Cantina; Sun-Star Cleaning; Taqueria Roly's; and Valet Trash Pickup.