Representatives from Wells Fargo, the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families and Drake University gathered at the Evelyn K. Davis Center today for the announcement of two $500,000 grants from Wells Fargo. Photo by Dan Ivis

The Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families and Drake University’s Small Business Clinic each will receive a $500,000 grant from Wells Fargo to grow their small business development programs, the organizations announced Tuesday at the Evelyn K. Davis Center.

The grants, announced during National Small Business Week, will allow both organizations to build on the growth they have fostered among diverse small business owners and extend their programs’ reach within underserved and underrepresented communities.

Wells Fargo Vice President of Social Impact and Sustainability Micah Kiel said making larger grants like these means “competing nationally” and that it was the collaborative relationship between Drake and the Evelyn K. Davis Center that helped make the funding possible.

“What allowed these two $500,000 grants to occur is that fit with where Wells Fargo is trying to invest plus the synergy between these two institutions in our community,” Kiel said. “It makes a very compelling case, and so we were able to bring national dollars and local dollars together to make these very large grants.”

Bill Adamowski, Drake University executive director of entrepreneurship, innovation and human centered design, said the grant will provide future security for the Small Business Clinic.

“It ensures that we can be self-sustaining going forward and really make the impact that we have without necessarily pulling resources from [multiple places] to make it happen … it's always nice when you can have some team members dedicated to the cause and go forward,” Adamowski said.

Both the Evelyn K. Davis Center’s Business Bootcamp program and the Drake Small Business Clinic’s Drake Business Accelerator have goals of reaching out to the community, and together they have formed the beginnings of a pipeline for small business development.

Adamowski said many Drake Business Accelerator companies are past participants of the Business Bootcamp. Business owners stay in touch with staff and services at the Evelyn K. Davis Center while transitioning to the next phase of their business in the accelerator.

The Evelyn K. Davis Center has grown its range of services and seen more interest from new clients because of its one-on-one advising, director Ahmed Agyeman said, so the collaborations with Drake has allowed it “build the capacity” it has needed to address demand.

The grants will expand capabilities of both organizations in their missions to connect and elevate diverse business owners. Adamowski said so far the clinic has been able to create new connections and merge networks that hadn’t interacted before.

“To me, that's been the power of it all is that we are now connecting up a number of these different networks, to the benefit, in this case, of the BIPOC entrepreneurial community,” he said.

Looking to manage an increase in entrepreneurial interest as well, the Drake Small Business Clinic will boost staffing and its mentor base as well as scaling the model to add more programs in areas where challenges remain like financial literacy.

He said in time the plan is to have the clinic provide services to the community as well, much like the Drake Legal Clinic.

In addition to new small business coaches focused on communities of color, the grant will allow the Evelyn K. Davis Center to pursue new programming opportunities and look at investing in customer relationship management software to create a database of its clients and track their outcomes and successes.

When the pandemic started, Kiel said many organizations learned that the tools and strategies to build relationships with diverse business owners were different, and a tool like the CRM software is a step toward establishing those relationships.

“That will help us collectively as a community, be able to … have people be known and on the radar in a different kind of way than they were pre-pandemic, certainly,” he said. “That was something that our community struggled with during the pandemic and the Evelyn K. Davis Center [is] perhaps the most well-positioned organization to really help the business community to make that known.”

Agyeman said diverse business owners can be spoken about as one group, so there’s a need to recognize the diversity within individual communities and build a distinct relationship with each of them.

“Bringing in additional help will only help us find folks that are able to build those partnerships and relationships that take a while,” he said. “It does require some groundwork [and] time to build those relationships that will bring opportunities together for our clients.”

To view the video played at today’s event telling the stories of three clients at Evelyn K. Davis Center, visit this link.

Related:Introducing: The Drake Business Clinic