In less than two weeks, Inga Toye will celebrate a two-year anniversary owning her Black-owned business called Blossoms Boutique at the Tanger Outlets at National Harbor in Prince George’s County.
The small business owner who resides in neighboring Charles County depends on family and close friends to volunteer and help run the boutique open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s been slow and steady,” Toye said about trying to sustain a business during the coronavirus pandemic. “We do sales online, but I could use extra money to promote the store. Marketing is not cheap.”
Toye and other Black-owned businesses can apply for grants up to $5,000 by Aug. 5 as part of a COVID-19 relief grant program managed by the Washington Football Team and United Airlines.
United Airlines will provide grants totaling $25,000 for five businesses that participate in the football team’s Black Engagement Network. Toye and nearly 100 other Black-owned business owners in the D.C. region are part of the network’s “Shop Black” directory at www.washingtonfootball.com/ben/shop-black.
The group launched the network in November as a way to support, acquire and retain Black talent in the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia). The list includes retailers offering apparel, beauty, food, health and wellness supplies and even an endeavor set up as a “kids’ corner.”
“We know that Black entrepreneurs face many barriers when it comes to starting and running their own businesses, and we cannot ignore the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has on minorities and minority-owned businesses,” Andre Chambers, the football team’s chief people officer, said in an email Thursday, July 15. “It’s essential that we provide support, and we take great pride as an organization in doing so.”
Businesses owners must:
Be a certified Black-owned diverse supplier located in the DMV.
Employ fewer than 15 employees.
Have been established for more than a year with annual revenues of less than $250,000.
Have been a member of the shop Black network since or before May 1.
“United is proud to work alongside the Washington Football Team to deepen our shared commitment to the National Capital region and the local, Black-owned businesses that employ our neighbors, energize our economy and enrich our culture,” Janet Lamkin, the airline’s senior vice president of market and community innovation said in a statement. “Diversity, equity and inclusion are core values at United – values we will continue to advance here in the DMV and across all of the communities we serve.”
Local business initiatives are taking place throughout the region in the next several weeks.
The District’s Department of Small and Local Business Development will host a workshop on Thursday, July 22. The event will focus on those interested in the food industry to learn how to work in a commercial kitchen and assess and budget necessary materials.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a “Buy Local Week” to encourage residents to support farmers and seafood operators by purchasing one item each day to go with a meal. The weeklong initiative is scheduled to end Sunday, July 25.
At least 25 Black-owned businesses will be showcased Aug. 7-8 at Springfield Mall in Springfield, Va.
Toye scrutinized the guidelines and said she fits all the criteria to establish a fully operational business. “It has always been a dream to open a boutique,” said Toye, who works full-time as a transportation specialist for the U.S. Department of Transportation. “The boutique is my happy place. I get so much out of being there.”
Details about the network are available at www.washingtonfootball.com/ben/shop-black-signup.
Twitter: @jabariwill

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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