The Dyer Grant Program for Black-owned Businesses opened applications Feb. 1, in honor of the first day of Black History Month.
Qualifying Black-owned businesses in Greater Fort Wayne with annual revenues less than $1 million can apply for grants in amounts of up to $25,000. Up to $200,000 will be available this grant cycle. In addition, Greater Fort Wayne and Flagstar Bank will provide technical assistance to all the grantees, with the former offering memberships that include free meeting space and business mentoring. Meanwhile Flagstar Bank will offer bank accounts, credit needs, retirement plans, and payroll services.
The application deadline is March 15. Grant recipients will be notified by April 15 and funds will be disbursed by April 29.
Tammy and Jack Dyer, along with other partners in the program, gathered Feb. 1 at the Clyde Theatre to announce the new yearly program. The couple moved to Fort Wayne in 1973 and raised their two children on the city’s south side while Tammy worked as a social worker and Jack as a physician.
“We found our lives are greatly enriched when we work with others to serve others, all the time having the goal of creating a greater sense of well-being for all,” Tammy Dyer said.
In 2001 they established the Dyer Family Foundation, which helps nearly 100 nonprofits a year.
“We are aware that we have been afforded many opportunities throughout our lives,” she said. “And we recognize that many of those same opportunities may not have been available to others. We received loans when we need them and support when we asked.”
Lack of access to capital remains the biggest hurdle to establishing and growing minority business, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Tammy Dyer said.
“That same report says greater capital access for minority-owned businesses is essential to sustain their growth, to reduce unemployment levels and in particular a high rate of unemployment in minority communities,” she said.
She said the Dyers want to now help Black business owners just as the couple were able to get the support to fulfill their dreams.
“We believe that Black-owned businesses are essential to our economy, to our social structure, to our infrastructure,” Iric Headley, part of the Dyer grant team, said. Even more, research shows that Black-owned businesses pour back into their communities as well.
The Dyers had a longtime friendship with Joe Jordan, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Indiana, who also is president of the Indiana Black Expo, Fort Wayne Chapter. They got guidance from Jordan. The new program’s funds will be administered through the Fort Wayne Chapter of the Indiana Black Expo, a partner of the program.
Black Expo’s mission is to be a voice for the social and economic advancement for African Americans, Jordan said. The Fort Wayne chapter is dedicated to improving the lives of all people by celebrating cultural diversity and inclusiveness. “Our tagline is simply ‘Educate, Empower.’ It’s simple. That’s exactly what we’re doing here. We are educating and empowering and elevating African-American business through this partnership.”
Tammy Dyer said since she and her husband both come from the service area, they got great guidance from Chuck Surack, president of the Surack Family Foundation and founder of Sweetwater.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life in Fort Wayne and we didn’t have programs like this in the early days,” Surack said. “Boy, would I have wished to have a program like this to help me through the month or through the quarter, the year. And maybe more than the money, the encouragement that comes out of a program like this. That says people believe in you.”
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