This past week, Retail Merchants had the distinct honor of celebrating ten local businesses in Richmond’s East End who received grants as part of the Supporting East End Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) program during a virtual ceremony held on November 18.

Initially established in 2011 by Bon Secours and Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC) Virginia, SEED, with funding from Bon Secours and as well as Capital One, seeks to revitalize the 25th Street and Nine Mile Corridor of Richmond by supporting East End entrepreneurial development in both a financial and business mentoring capacity. The program provides more than $100,000 in funding to individuals interested in launching or expanding a business within the corridor.

New to the SEED program in 2020, Retail Merchants is serving as fund administrator in partnership with LISC. RMA plays an integral role in providing these small businesses with access to a network of peer business owners in addition to no-cost resources including advocacy and information.

“Small businesses are the fabric of our community; no one understands the needs of a neighborhood quite like those who live and work within it,” said Nancy Thomas, President and CEO of Retail Merchants. “The SEED program provides participants with a path to essential resources and funding so that they can continue to support their community and sustain entrepreneurship opportunities in Richmond’s East End.”

Since 2011, $639,500 has been distributed to 38 East End businesses. The 2020 recipients include:

BareSOUL Yoga
BareSOUL Yoga & Wellness is a small business that was founded by Ashley Williams in August 2015. Their mission is to bridge yoga, education and community to cultivate a diverse, accessible experience that provides balance to the mind, body and SOUL for the greater impact. They will use their grant funds to support business operations and expansion.

Alexander’s Cleaners
Alexander’s Cleaners is a dry-cleaning, laundry and alterations business owned by Maran Fields located in the historic Church Hill district of Richmond. They provide an eco-friendly cleaning service with a gentle cleaning action that puts a care into the garments that is noticeable to customers. C. Alexander’s Cleaners puts the customer first and always provides an exceptional experience. They will use their grant funds to purchase new equipment.

Carolina Bar B Que
Carolina Bar B Que is a take-out restaurant that provides home cooked meals at an affordable price located on Nine Mile Road in Church Hill. The restaurant was purchased in 2014 by Lamont and Alisha Hawkins, after being a staple in the community since 1970. The new ownership has a focus on food access and excellent customer service. They will use their grant funds for exterior signage and marketing.

EZ Body & Auto Repair Service
EZ Body & Auto Repair Service is a women-owned automotive service for the Church Hill area. The business has over 30 years’ worth of automotive experience that provides high quality, convenient, and comprehensive auto repair at competitive rate. With a focus on trust, owner Charlene Spencer-Taylor, they rely on positive word of mouth to help grow their business. They will use their grant funds for system updates and machinery.

Favour Cookie Company
Favour Cookie Company was created in 2018 by Sequoia Ross to create delicious, craft, frozen vegan cookie dough. They offer both vegan and gluten free options, designed to show that vegan food can also be delicious! Their doughs can be baked straight from the freezer or one of the only cookies that can be eaten frozen. They will use their grant funds for marketing and promotional materials.

Glean is a commercial cleaning company that is mission-focused on living-wage job creation for local citizens. In order to complete this mission, Glean provides an average hourly wage that is 30% higher than local competitors and financially incentivizes great work from staff. Owner, Nicole Mason, has grown this company from infancy stage to employing seven local citizens. They will use their grant funds for transition to W2 employees and recruitment efforts.

Jade Salon
Jade Salon is a multicultural full-service hair care salon owned by Jaida Cureton. They specialize in custom color, precision cuts, and cutting-edge styles as well as all aspects of hair care for men and women. With over 22 years of progressive experience in the hair care industry, their goal is to enhance their client’s overall image while educating them. Jade Salon has become a place for all people to join and build each other up by creating relationships of support and compassion. They will use their grant funds for training and software implementation.

In 2016 Melissa and Frayser Micou opened a plant and gift shop called “Gather Home and Garden”. But by 2017, the time was right for expanding into a larger space that combined their plantlife principles with a harvest-based menu, now known as Pomona. They are committed to the role a business can play in building community by hosting annual fundraisers for many nonprofits, creating plant and health related programming, and working with local or independent artisans. They will use their grant funds to adapt their business with COVID spatial and health modifications and marketing.

Soul N’ Vinegar
Soul N’ Vinegar is a local food brand focused on providing high quality, health conscious, diversely flavored items with an emphasis on affordability and convenience, all with a neighborhood feel. Soul N’ Vinegar, owned by Michelle Parrish, consists of a brick-and-mortar retail storefront located in Church Hill, a satellite location inside of the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art that operates as a cafe and event space, and Soul N’ Vinegar Catering, a full-service catering business specializing in custom events and community-based work. With a focus on local partnerships, they offer affordability and bold diverse flavors. They will use their grant funds to refocus their community catering business to enable ready-to-eat takeaway meals.

Walnut Alley
Walnut Alley was founded by Michael Wynn in October 2015 out of a need for waste management on Walnut Alley, an undesignated waste drop-off spot. The company provides Waste Management services for restaurants, apartments, landlords and parking lots. They specialize in urban areas without dumpster access, facilitating cleaner communities. In the past five years they have expanded beyond Shockoe Bottom to Church Hill, The Slip, Manchester and Jackson Ward. They will use their grant funds for marketing and promotional materials.

Read more via the Richmond Times-Dispatch.