Thirteen entrepreneurial businesses in or near Chaves County received $5,000 grants facilitated by the local office of WESST and funded by the state.
“It was probably my most fun day ever,” said Rhonda Johnson, regional manager for WESST, a statewide small business support organization focusing primarily on women- and minority-owned businesses.
WESST is affiliated with the U.S. Small Business Administration and was formerly known as the Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Team. Johnson found out about the grant awards Wednesday.
WESST also has been helping businesses work with banks or accountants to receive SBA emergency loans as well as other grants, but the 13 loans awarded this week are part of a micro-business grant program of the All Together New Mexico Fund.
Confidentiality rules prohibit WESST from disclosing the names of recipients, but Johnson said that they included businesses in Roswell, Hagerman, Dexter, Lovington and Portales. Eight went to Roswell businesses, she added.
The money is not a large sum, but Johnson said that, to small operations, it can be the difference between surviving and closing.
She said several of the people she called to tell them about the grants, including a woman business owner, expressed that thought.
“She broke down in tears and said, ‘I prayed today and said, Lord, should I just shut my doors? and then you called,’” Johnson said.
WESST’s statewide offices received $260,000 to allocate during this first phase of the micro-business grants, said Randy Royster.
He is president and chief executive officer of the Albuquerque Community Foundation. That foundation is one of four members of the New Mexico Coalition of Community Foundations, which is distributing the All Together New Mexico funds created by the Governor’s Office. Royster is in charge of the micro-business grant funds allocated for distribution to WESST and three other “entrepreneurial support organizations,” or ESOs, in the state.
“They have ongoing relations with a lot of micro-entrepreneurial businesses all over the state,” Royster said. “We felt like they were our best partners in finding those businesses.”
Royster said the first round of micro-business funding statewide was for $750,000 and that $600,000 has been allocated to 120 businesses, so 30 more businesses could receive funds from round-one funding.
According to Royster and Johnson, to qualify, the businesses had to have existing relationships with the ESO and they had to be ineligible for the Small Business Administration Payroll Protection Program loans or Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
This first round of micro-business grants targeted businesses in rural counties or those owned by Native Americans. Recipients also had to have at least one employee in addition to the owners or multiple contract employees and no more than seven people on the payroll, including the owners.
A second round of funding for $750,000 is anticipated, Royster said.
“When the second round comes out, we may have different criteria,” Royster said. “We are so delighted to get this money out and we look forward to getting more out.”
Johnson said she typically tells clients not to ever expect grants but that the current situation is creating quite a few grant programs, including those funded by individual donations.
“It has been so much fun to put a little bit of hope in people’s hearts right now,” she said.
More information on the All Together New Mexico Fund is available on the website: www.alltogethernm.org.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at email@example.com.