M&T Bank Corporation has announced the Harlem Multicultural Small Business Innovation Lab, a six-week program designed to provide local entrepreneurs with guidance, education, and resources to help them start and grow businesses.

This program is designed to empower, develop, and grow racially and ethnically diverse small businesses within the Harlem community. Registration for the program is open on the M&T Bank website.

M&T’s Harlem Multicultural Small Business Innovation Lab will help participating entrepreneurs deepen their business expertise and gain insights into creating business plans, establishing credit, accessing capital, marketing, networking, and more. The Lab’s mission is to offer an opportunity for multicultural businesses to increase their visibility, accelerate their business, achieve success, and increase M&T’s engagement with multicultural business owners across its various markets.

Held in collaboration with Carver Federal Savings Bank, the program will culminate in a pitch competition among program finalists, with first place earning a $16,000 prize, second receiving $12,000, and third receiving $7,000, all funded by M&T.

The six-week program will be held at the Harlem Commonwealth Council beginning Thursday, March 30, and will run every Thursday evening through May 4.

The program will accept established and aspiring small-business owners who are interested in participating. Acceptance will come on a rolling basis for entrepreneurs who meet the following criteria:

  • Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian American, or other multicultural identities;
  • In business no more than three years; and,
  • Annual business revenue of $150,000 or less.

This program has already been launched in additional communities including Harrisburg, Pa.; Bridgeport, Conn., and now Harlem.

The initiative has enabled the bank to meet the unique needs of entrepreneurs while providing insights that have informed and differentiated M&T’s approach to serving multicultural businesses. The bank plans to bring the program to even more cities in 2023.

Brandon Ross, Chief Executive Officer of Pawsome Pet Products, enrolled in M&T Bank’s Multicultural Small Business Innovation Lab in Bridgeport last year, winning a $6,000 grant for his product, The Pawsome Pet Carrier. Continuing to grow in popularity, the pet carrier now has a patent pending.

“Investing in multicultural entrepreneurs is one of the most meaningful and powerful actions we can take to help our communities achieve financial empowerment and keep growing stronger,” said David Femi, head of M&T Bank’s Multicultural Banking & Diverse Market Strategy.

The curriculum for the program is designed to help entrepreneurs learn fundamentals such as effective business planning, establishing credit, and gaining exposure to expert-level skills like presenting to investors, understanding business valuation, and building impactful brands.

The program will conclude with a pitch competition that will award a total of $35,000 of funding, split between three winners. Winning businesses are determined by several factors, including the market or community needs the business addresses, the effectiveness of its business plan, its ability to adapt, and its potential for growth and community impact.

For more information or to apply for the Harlem Innovation Lab, visit the M&T Bank website.

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