M&T Bank Awards Small Business Grants
M&T Bank awarded $15,000 in grants to four local small businesses at a Nov. 2 pitch competition in Bridgeport.
The grants were part of M&T Bank’s eight-week Multicultural Small Business Lab, run in collaboration with the University of Bridgeport.
The course originated in Buffalo, New York, and trains racially and ethnically diverse small businesses in topics ranging from business planning, marketing and branding, networking, and pitching.
It has expanded to five cities, and will be run again in Bridgeport in 2023.
The program ended Wednesday with seven finalists pitching their company to a panel of judges, who awarded grants to four participants.
Carmen Nieves—who pitched a workforce and business development organization—said she wanted her business to reach its full potential through the program.
“I want to grow my business,” she said. “I’ve always helped people find jobs, but I wanted to do it in a way that helps more businesses and makes me feel good.”
Nieves said each class was valuable, but the most important thing she got was having individuals from M&T Bank who believed in her and her cohort.
“It’s about relationships,” she said.
“Relationships with individuals that believe in you, that trust you to work with them, and that know you’re going to do what you say you’re going to do.
“And ever since M&T has come here, they’ve really shown that they’re putting their money where their mouth is.”
Though she did not win, Nieves said the lessons learned from M&T Bank’s program would be critical moving forward.
“This class has really helped me in honing my message,” Nieves said. “I’ve changed the way that I introduce my business in every class until the pitch.”
For M&T Bank Bridgeport regional president Frank Micalizzi, the lab is a continuation of M&T Bank’s support of small businesses.
“Small businesses are very important to our bank,” he said. “It’s the start of building communities.”
Micalizzi said this program is one of many M&T Bank does for small businesses.
He highlighted the company’s M&T Spotlight Shop, which allows businesses to use a pop-up space in a popular area of their community for two-week segments.
“A lot of them are really hard-working people that don’t always have the means through marketing and advertising,” he said.
“It’s been very successful to highlight a small business customer and give them some exposure that they themselves sometimes wouldn’t have the wherewithal to do.”
Micalizzi said M&T Bank will continue helping small businesses through programs like the Multicultural Small Business Lab.
“We feel that they are the economic engine for success,” he said.
“As far as the economy and employment is concerned, it really starts with small businesses.”
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