Wells Fargo announces $20 million donation for small, minority-owned businesses
Wells Fargo announced a $20 million donation to the Foundation For The Carolinas on Friday. The money will go out as grants to small and minority-owned businesses across Charlotte. The funding is part of the bank’s $420 million Open for Business Fund.
Through the initiative, Wells Fargo works with local organizations to provide funding for small businesses. Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf highlighted these partnerships during the announcement on Friday morning at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.
“We recognize, even with the scale of a Wells Fargo, the size of the company we are, generally the people who don't have access to us are the people that are most in need,” Scharf said. “And so we want to work with third parties to figure out how we reach a much broader population.”
For this $20 million donation, Wells Fargo will partner with the Foundation For The Carolinas. The organization hopes to identify about 1,000 entrepreneurs to benefit from the grant funding.
“I can't overstate how significant it is that we will be making capital available in the form of grants, not in the form of loans,” said Michael Marsicano, CEO of the Foundation For The Carolinas. “With grants, we immediately add to the balance sheet of a business as compared to loans that increase financial burdens. In other words, creating direct pathways to wealth creation.”
The nonprofit’s Executive Vice President, Brian Collier, says the organization will spend the next six months going into communities to ensure the grants go to the businesses that need the funding the most.
“I just want to assure the community that we're going to go out and listen to them and develop the best program that we can,” Collier said. “Because 20 million is a lot of money, but it's not a lot of money when you think about the needs that are out there.”
Collier says applications for the program will open around May of next year. Priority will be given to small and minority-owned businesses in Charlotte’s six corridors of opportunity, as identified by the city.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles also spoke at the event, highlighting the importance of public and private partnerships in handling recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So when people ask what is the secret sauce? It's not McDonald's tomato sauce or any of that, it's really the sauce that we have to be able to collaborate and work together on changing and keeping our city strong today,” Lyles said.
The mayor highlighted the importance of these funds being invested specifically in communities of color.
“All of those communities, if we could just invest in the talent. That talent will pay off because they will invest in us,” she said.
The owners of No Grease Barbershop, Tracey Greene Washington and Edmund Washington, also spoke at the event. The married couple received a $99,000 loan as part of Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund.
They said the money helped them open a second location for their barbershop.
During the announcement, Greene Washington emphasized the importance of having racial equity at the center of the initiative.
“We want to just say the $20 million is only the beginning, and I hope you see it as a beginning,” Greene Washington said. “It will take billions and billions and billions of dollars to be able to reverse the structural and historical inequities that have facilitated the underinvestment in businesses in Charlotte and to create the community that we want.”
Wells Fargo's Scharf agreed with the entrepreneur.
“We need to think about it both as a sprint, but also as a marathon. Sprint because we want to make an impact as quickly as we can,” Scharf said. “But recognize that that's only a beginning and there's a tremendous amount to do and that we're certainly committed to help over a very long period of time to drive to what we all strive for, which is a true and equitable society.”
Wells Fargo launched the Open for Business Fund in 2020 using processing fees it made from the Paycheck Protection Program.