Comcast RISE grant recipient Rymond Angelus McFarlane

The first round of the Comcast initiative to support Black businesses nationally hit hard by COVID-19, Comcast RISE, has already paid dividends for several Houston-area businesses. The company is now launching Comcast RISE round two that will extend this same help to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)-owned small businesses.

In October 2020 Comcast launched the Comcast RISE initiative, bringing together two of the company’s brands —Comcast Business and Effectv, both with expertise in the small business space — to empower business owners with the expertise and resources needed to navigate the economic effects of the pandemic. 

Recipients of Comcast RISE’s round two were recently announced. Seven-five recipients come from the Houston-area alone, and can be found at www.ComcastRISE.com.

The “RISE” in Comcast RISE stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment.” Round two recipients will be announced later this month, and will receive marketing services from Effecttv, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable, and it’s creative agency, Mnemonic, and/or technology makeover services courtesy of Comcast Business.

In addition to this second phase, Comcast recently announced the Comcast RISE Investment Fund, providing $5 million in grants to hundreds of BIPOC-owned, small businesses in five cities nationwide, including $1 million in Houston. Now through March 14, eligible businesses in Houston, in addition to Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia, can apply for a $10,000 grant at www.ComcastRISE.com.

A total of 100 grants in Houston, or 500 grants overall, will be awarded in May 2021. The Investment Fund is the latest extension of Comcast RISE, the multi-year, multi-faceted initiative launched in October 2020 that initially focused on Black-owned, small businesses to help those hardest hit by COVID-19. More can be read about the Comcast RISE Investment Fund by reading the March 11, 2021 print and e-Edition of the Defender.

The Comcast RISE Investment Fund is focused on small businesses who have been in business for three or more years with 1-25 employees. Businesses must be in the following geographic locations to be eligible: Houston, TX (Harris and Fort Bend Counties).

To help drive outreach about the program and provide additional support, training and mentorship, Comcast has also awarded more than $2 million to nearly 20 community-based organizations in the five cities, including Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Greater Houston Black Chamber, Asian Chamber of Commerce, Greater Houston LGBT, Houston East End Chamber and Cámara de Empresarios in Houston, as well as the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), Operation Hope, Ureeka, U.S. Black Chambers, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Asian American Chamber of Commerce.

“Small businesses have always played an integral role in Houston’s growth and future,” said Ralph Martinez, senior vice president for Comcast’s Houston region. “In the midst of the pandemic, these entrepreneurs provided many of the services and resources that have kept our communities up and running.”

Studies show that BIPOC-owned, small businesses have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and recent research by JPMorgan Chase Institute found that Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Philadelphia were in the top markets for sharp declines in local commerce spending. Additionally, the majority of applications for the Comcast RISE marketing and technology services component are from these five cities.

“Unfortunately, many small businesses in Houston were not able to withstand the many months of suppressed revenues.  While we remain optimistic about our economic recovery, public-private partnerships will play a vital role in minimizing the disruptions that so many small businesses, specifically minority-owned business, are facing,” said Vice Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex-Tatum who chairs the City of Houston’s Economic Development Committee.

The first phase of Comcast RISE focused on U.S. Black-owned small businesses. There were recipients in 285 cities in 29 states, and 43 of those small business owners were from Houston.

“COVID-19 made the tough year of 2020. As a small business what hurt the most was being deemed non -essential and having to close our doors,” said Raymond Angelus McFarlane, Owner and Head Instructor of Ravlin Martial Arts centrally located in the Bellaire, West U, South Side, NRG Meyerland community.

“I’m extremely excited that, a business, an entity like Comcast has taken an interest and is looking to support small businesses. I believe that the technology grant from Comcast will help us, which will then bring more people back to us, and help us grow more,” McFarlane added.

“We all know with COVID going on, the pandemic, so many businesses, but especially with home care, it was fear of the unknown. We had so many of our caregivers to be exposed, must quarantine, so they couldn’t work. So, we had clients saying we don’t want to use you anymore,” said Tomeka McKinney, Owner of Nurturing Companions.

“I don’t even know if I can express in words how grateful I am, but I think they should continue, a company such as Comcast, supporting and giving back is what they’re doing during this time means so much.”

“We created Comcast RISE to partner with small businesses and give them access to tools to help them survive the pandemic and thrive. As we’ve gone through the selection process, it’s been so powerful to hear these business owners’ stories and see the tangible ways that we can help grow their businesses and impact their communities,” said Vince Margiotta, Vice President of Comcast Business in Houston. “I could not be more pleased to open this program to the entire BIPOC community and continue this positive momentum.”

“Our small businesses here in Houston have always played an integral part in our city’s growth and future,” said Michael Bybee, Comcast’s director of external communications in Houston. “These entrepreneurs provide many of the services and resources that have kept our communities up and running, and still do.” Comcast RISE is part of a larger $100 million Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative that Comcast launched in the summer of 2020. In June, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the development of a comprehensive, multiyear plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.