Tina Augustus is one of the 39 grant recipients to receive financial support for her small business in the latest round of funding from West Side United.
Augustus was awarded $10,000 to help keep Elevate Services, her marketing and communications business, afloat during the pandemic.
The grant enabled the longtime Austin resident, who launched her business in May 2009, to buy much-needed equipment, and she plans on using some of the money to pay interns.
Some challenges Augustus faced when COVID-19 disrupted normal business operations were less access to capital and delay in obtaining a minority business certification. But that hasn’t stopped her from finding the silver lining.
“I’m very optimistic,” said Augustus, noting she comes from a family of entrepreneurs.
Her father owned an electrical service, and she used to draft contracts for him. “I came into business with a positive viewpoint regarding my success.”
Like many businesses, Elevate Services saw a drop in business when the pandemic hit in spring 2020. Augustus said the setback only made her work harder; she branched out beyond Austin and started establishing new relationships.
Augustus said being shuttered inside allowed her to think harder about the best ways to market her services.
“It allowed me access to the networks that were growing virtually,” she said. “I don’t look at it as a drawback but as something that puts us on a different platform.”
West Side United chose recipients based on how they serve their communities and how they’re advancing equity. In a previous rounds of funding in 2019, West Side United invested $500,000 in seven local business. This time around the nonprofit wanted to give to more businesses, even if that meant giving less money.
With financial support from JPMorgan Chase, Northern Chase and Allies for Community Business, a total of $390,000 was doled out this time around.
Rachel Wilson, program manager at West Side United, said it’s important for the organization to support minority businesses because of Chicago’s history of racism and disinvestment on the West Side.
“Businesses build communities,” Wilson said.
Each of grantee received $10,000 and has been grouped into a cohort that will provide support in ways other than financial. They’ll get help with marketing and brand building, and participate in monthly workshops.
To address the challenges that came with the pandemic, existing grant members were given a boost grant to make sure they had extra help.
A fourth installment of the program will open in September.