Showcases, meetups, and apps such as Buy Black Baltimore 365 that are meant to help shine the light on Black businesses in Baltimore have drawn attention to small business owners on the move. Before support can be provided by buying goods and utilizing their services, budding entrepreneurs may need guidance to get their ideas off the ground.
The church of St. Katherine of Alexandria —located at 2001 Division St., Baltimore, Maryland 21217– is standing in the gap. The church recently launched a ministry called the Faith Builders Bridging the Gap (FBBG) – Demonstration Project to lend a hand to individuals between the ages of 17- 30 whose aspirations do not necessarily include a college path. These Baltimore residents who earned a high school diploma or GED may participate in the project to help bring their business ideas to life.
Leslie Smith, the Project Coordinator for FBBG, told The Baltimore Times that a plethora of programs offer opportunities for young people who want to earn college degrees. On the other hand, the cost of higher education; personal interests; or even aptitude may influence their decision not to turn in the direction of higher education.
“The average college tuition cost has increased in the 2021-2022 academic year over the prior year across both public and private schools, U.S. News data shows,” per information provided by U.S. News & World Report. “The average cost of tuition and fees to attend a ranked public college in state is about 73% less than the average sticker price at a private college, at $10,388 for the 2021-2022 year compared with $38,185, respectively, U.S. News data shows. The average cost for out-of-state students at public colleges comes to $22,698 for the same year.”
In response to a range of personal realities, FBBG is making another option to achieve goals feasible.
“The reason why we developed the project is because, not just looking at COVID, but just looking at the status of Black entrepreneurship or Black business operators in Baltimore City, especially on the west side of Baltimore, which is where our church is, at one point that was a very vibrant part of Black culture and we’ve seen the neighborhood just change over the decades,” Smith said. “So the reason why we developed the project is because first of all, there is a whole sector of the population, a group of people that we feel that’s underserved, and there are not a lot of programs for them. These are young folks who want to be business owners, but they need the support, the training, and the resources to help them.”
St. Katherine’s Church’s members are assisting to sponsor tools such as loaner laptops for participants who need to complete work for their prospective businesses. Help with business costs, such as setting up websites, and the registration for the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, is being made possible through a small grant from the Episcopal Diocese.
Smith also explained that professionals are volunteering their time and talents to provide insight about vital business-related topics such as how to organize and set up a business; developing a business plan; knowing the difference between corporations and a sole proprietorship; mandatory requirements for the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation; registration; marketing; budgeting; best business practices; and other topics.
“We have an array of professionals over the eight Saturday sessions,” Smith said.
Sessions will be scheduled on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Although the first session was held on Saturday July 16, 2022, new participants who enroll into the project late would be required to make up missed sessions. The application deadline is July 30, 2022. Please email [email protected] to obtain more details about FBBG, or to apply for the program.