Special to the New Journal and Guide
The pandemic continues to take its toll on Hampton Roads businesses. Small business owners like Marsella Sanders of Mimmie’s Learning Academy in Virginia Beach and Korbin Brown of Care More Movers in Norfolk, know what it’s like to struggle during these critical times. Sanders was forced to stop paying herself when enrollment dropped from 32 to just five children. Brown said he was precariously behind on all of his bills. Then they, along with 63 other Hampton Roads businesses, received a much needed helping hand.
Dominion Energy donated $200,000 to the “We Care Hampton Roads Rebuild Project,” established to provide emergency funding for small, women and minority-owned businesses. The “We Care” initiative is led by the Urban League and supported by Black BRAND, LISC Hampton Roads, and Virginia Community Capital. The grants are part of a $5 million commitment by Dominion Energy’s Charitable Foundation for social justice and community rebuilding, after the turbulence of 2020.
“In Hampton Roads, we’ve unfortunately seen a recent wave of businesses close permanently due to the coronavirus,” said Gilbert Bland, President and CEO of the Urban League. “By establishing the We Care program to provide grants to businesses, we’re hopeful that funds will bridge the financial gap so owners can weather this rocky period and continue on for years to come.”
Small businesses dealing with financial difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic and other crises were eligible for the grants which ranged from $2,500 to $10,000.
Marsella Sanders, a retired teacher, and her son Giovanni received $5,000 for their childcare center.
“Mommy can’t go to work if she has to worry about her children,” said Sanders. “It was a big relief when the grant money showed up.”
It allowed Sanders to continue paying her staff, so she didn’t have to have layoffs. Now, enrollment is back up to 21 children.
Last year, Norview High School graduate and Air Force veteran Korbin Brown opened a first-of-its-kind storefront in Janaf Shopping Center, where you can get full service resources for all your moving needs, including packing materials, truck rentals, and moving crew. To stay afloat during the pandemic, he had applied for every grant and loan he could find. Just when he was running out of options, in early December, a check came in the mail. The $5,000 grant gave Brown’s “Care More Movers” what he calls an early Christmas present.
“We needed it. We really needed it,” said Brown. “With this money, we know the future is bright.”
He used the money to pay rent, utilities, and increase his marketing budget. Brown says the “We Care” grant was instrumental in keeping his doors open. He hopes to continue growing his business and give more back to the community.
“We’re glad to make this important investment in our communities,” said Dominion Energy Regional Director Bonita Billingsley Harris. “Korbin Brown and Marsella Sanders are just two examples of dedicated local entrepreneurs who are facing hardships, but remain committed to serving their customers,”
Dominion Energy is offering more help for small businesses with unpaid energy bills through 2020. Businesses that need it can apply for Dominion’s Energy Share funds.
To apply or get more information, visit www.dominionenergy.com/our-stories/small-business-relief-program.