In the first three months of COVID-19 in the United States, 41% of Black-owned businesses shut their doors, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The organization also said that self-employment among Latinx and Asian workers was 32% and 26%. White self-employed workers dropped just 17% in the same time frame. The report noted that 22% of all businesses shut down during the same period.

Most studies have found that COVID-19’s impact on the BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) segment has exceeded that of other Americans. The restaurant community, regardless of ownership, has also been severely impacted due to bans and restrictions on in-person dining.

DoorDash (NYSE: DASH) is trying to help them, launching the Main Street Strong Accelerator to support women-, immigrant- and BIPOC-owned businesses. The $2 million fund is accepting applications through 8 p.m. EST March 2. The company will select 100 restaurants in five cities – New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia – to participate in an eight-week-long curriculum and receive a $20,000 grant.

“The social and financial inequities that many businesses experienced before the pandemic have only been amplified by the current global pandemic and economic crisis,” Tony Xu, CEO and co-founder of DoorDash, said in a statement. “To truly empower and grow local economies, you must start with the entrepreneur. With a commitment to advancing diversity and equity, starting with the restaurant industry, we’re excited to provide business owners with specialized tools to thrive during one of the most challenging times of our generation.”

The program has been developed in conjunction with the Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF), a leading nonprofit small business lender and support organization.

The Main Street Strong Accelerator is designed to help “restaurateurs stabilize and adapt their business for long-term success,” the release stated.

According to DoorDash, Black-owned businesses are closing at rates twice as fast as other businesses, and nearly half of Latinx business owners expect to permanently close within six months. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a survey released in July 2020, found that only 47% of women-owned businesses ranked the overall health of their business as good, compared to 62% of male-owned businesses that said the same. Female-owned small businesses showed no change from Q1 to Q2 2020 when asked if they plan to increase investments in the coming year, with just 32% saying they planned to do so.

The eight-week course will cover marketing, technology integration, managing cash flow and menu creation. Participants will create a personalized business plan and a list of all their weekly assignments completed through the program so they can implement them into their businesses, DoorDash said.

“Restaurants have been among the industries most severely impacted during this pandemic. And, like all sectors, those owned by women, immigrants and people of color suffered the most because they had less resources to fall back on and fewer connections to access initial relief from the federal government,” Luz Urrutia, Accion Opportunity Fund CEO, said. “It’s clear and unfortunate that the future of the industry has changed forever. If we want to make space for food visionaries from diverse backgrounds to contribute to the future of food, dining, job creation and community building, we must intentionally focus on these business owners to support their adaptation, creativity and liquidity.”

To assist the participants in the accelerator, DoorDash has created an advisory committee of restaurant owners and operators. The committee includes:

  • Ellen Yin, co-founder and owner of High Street Hospitality Group, which includes Fork, High Street Philly, High Street on Hudson and +, and author of “Forklore: Recipes and Tales from an American Bistro.”
  • Tanya Holland, executive chef and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen, author of “The Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook” and “New Soul Cooking” and member of the board of trustees of the James Beard Foundation.
  • Deborah VanTrece, creative director and owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours and author of “The Twisted Soul Cookbook: Modern Soul Food with Global Flavor.”
  • Nyesha Arrington, host of “Eater’s Plateworthy” and vice president of community engagement at The Collective Identity Mentoring.

DoorDash will notify the winning restaurants in mid-March. The program will run in April and May via virtual workshops.

Click for more Modern Shipper articles by Brian Straight.

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