Fifth Third Foundation Powers $1.2 Million Innovation Meets Main Street Program for Black, Women-Owned Entrepreneurs

CINCINNATI—Fifth Third Bank, National Association, today announced an exciting new $1.2 million program called Innovation meets Main Street: Boosting Black Women-Owned Businesses, a partnership between AEO and LISC powered by Fifth Third Bank.

The program is made possible by grants from the Fifth Third Foundation to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Association of Enterprise Opportunity’s (AEO) MainStreet RISE program. The funds are part of the $8.75 million Fifth Third pledged to support small businesses and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fifth Third’s Senior Vice President and Chief Enterprise Responsibility Officer Byna Elliott said, “Our vision for this program was to bring together proven organizations who could help black- and other minority-owned women entrepreneurs through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Not only do these businesses need grants to help weather the health and economic crisis, they also need technical assistance like marketing and digital capabilities as well as venture capital investments. This program is specially designed to help women business owners address their most pressing needs to ensure their sustainability now and in the future.”

This Innovation meets Main Street program is powered entirely by Fifth Third. LISC received $1 million from the Fifth Third Foundation, $630,000 of which was designated for grant funding to small businesses and $250,000 for an investment in the Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm that invests in women of color-led businesses seeking financing. Remaining funds will support the delivery of technical assistance. Additionally, AEO received $200,000 from the Foundation to provide business owners access to MainStreet RISE, a suite of critical tech-enabled tools and resources to keep businesses existing and selling during and after the pandemic. The funding also will enable AEO to design the Small Business Resource Navigator, an online interactive tool that directs small businesses to local resources. 

Altogether, the program will provide targeted services—grants, technical assistance or capital infusions—to 35 black- or other minority-owned women entrepreneurs in the following markets: Atlanta, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Louisville, Nashville and Orlando. A total of 245 women entrepreneurs will be assisted with grants and investments, and more will receive technical assistance. 

Applications, via an online portal, will open at the commencement of the “State of Black Women-Owned Businesses” webinar on September 16, 2020 at 1 p.m. eastern. Registrations must be made in advance of the date at the following link: The application period will close seven days later, on September 23.

All eligible applicants will be scored and ranked for selection. Applicants will be notified of acceptance and/or denial via email. The webinar features:

  • Byna Elliott, Fifth Third Bank senior vice president and chief enterprise sustainability officer
  • Connie E. Evans, president and CEO of the Association of Enterprise Opportunity
  • Steve Hall, senior director of economic development of Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  • Arian Simone, co-founder of Fearless Fund
  • Kimberly Blackwell, chief executive officer of PMM.

Eligibility requirements include, but are not limited, to:

  • Legal, for-profit business located in one of the seven markets.
  • Business must be currently operating, not closed.
  • Demonstrated record of operating before COVID-19 and was closed due to a local pandemic-related mandate, and in operation for over one year (business launched prior to May 1, 2019).
  • Location within al ow- and moderate-income census tract.
  • Annual business revenues of less than $1 million. 

To apply, and for full eligibility requirements, click here.

“The Fifth Third Foundation is providing vital capital to help sustain Black and minority women-owned small businesses, especially in communities that have been historically underserved,” said Maurice A. Jones, president and CEO of LISC, a national community development nonprofit that invests in affordable housing, economic development, health and jobs. “Through our partnership, we are focused on offering immediate support to these entrepreneurs who don’t otherwise have ready access to relief funds, as well as creating longer term pathways to recovery, which will be critical in the months to come.”

Connie E. Evans, president and CEO of AEO, said, “Our MainStreet RISE program is an innovative way to get much-need services to Black, women entrepreneurs. Along with our partners, we will help these entrepreneurs generate sales and revenue, build new marketing campaigns, obtain new digital sales and marketing tools, get bookkeeping and accounting assistance, as well as mentoring and training. The funding from the Fifth Third Foundation and the Bank’s commitment to lead small businesses through and beyond the pandemic is a big boost to our efforts and will enable us to help a significant number of businesses and business owners.” 

“People of color, especially Black women, have been left out of venture capital investments and corporate funding for small businesses for far too long,” said Arian Simone, general partner, co-founder and investor, Fearless Fund. “Systemic change cannot survive without economic empowerment in Black entrepreneurs from the top down. We are delighted to have Fifth Third’s support of the Fearless Fund to help us change the narrative.”

About the Fifth Third Foundation

Established in 1948, the Fifth Third Foundation was one of the first charitable foundations created by a financial institution. The Fifth Third Foundation supports worthy causes in the areas of health and human services, education, community development and the arts in the states where Fifth Third Bank operates.