Jessica Reed, Cassandra Williams, and Martina Ngo might be strangers, but they have four things in common. They are all female entrepreneurs who live in Pierce County, and each one is a recipient of the Comcast RISE grant announced in November.

The Comcast RISE grant comes along at a time when Washington small business owners need it most – especially those who are members of one or more minorities. Almost all of the businesses operating in Washington are considered small businesses. A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals that those owned by Blacks, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans were hit the hardest by the pandemic’s effects. Since 2020, the Comcast RISE program has helped level that disparity by awarding over $110 million in grants, marketing, and technology services to Black, Indigenous, Hispanic American, Asian American, women, and other small business owners.

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Sample some Reed’s Sweet Wine made locally by owner Jessica Reed, one of 228 Washington small business owners, to receive the Comcast RISE grant. Photo courtesy: Reed’s Sweet Wine

Reed’s Sweet Wine

“I’m incredibly humbled to be selected,” says Jessica Reed. “I’m a small business owner, and I support my community by giving back, predominantly to children and sports, so to see a larger company give back so graciously to their community is such a blessing.”

Reed’s Tacoma company, Reed’s Sweet Wine, is one of 228 small businesses – 100 of them in King and Pierce Counties – to benefit from the Comcast RISE program. Reed’s company produces and sells wine made locally by Reed herself. The Comcast RISE grant will help her achieve her dream of expanding by adding a bed and breakfast and a community kitchen to her business enterprise. “The grant is a huge step ahead to continue building at a faster rate,” explains Reed.

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Comcast RISE grant recipient, Cassandra Williams, looks forward to all she and her business, the Love by the Slice Bakery & Catering Company, can achieve. Photo courtesy: Love by the Slice Bakery & Catering Company

Love by the Slice Bakery and Catering Company

Cassandra Williams, owner and operator of the Love by the Slice Bakery and Catering Company in Tacoma, recognizes the need for initiatives like Comcast’s grants. “The Comcast RISE program is important because it helps to encourage equity for Black and Brown people in business nationwide,” says Williams. She explains that it also helps others in her community by enabling her to hire more employees and provide jobs for locals.

Senior Vice President of Digital and Customer Experience for Comcast Business, Teresa Ward-Maupin, shares that the intention of Comcast RISE is not just to help businesses strive but to thrive. “We recognize that small businesses are the backbone of our economy and look forward to taking our learnings from this program as we find new ways to further empower and strengthen even more small businesses and entrepreneurs at the heart of our local communities,” says Ward-Maupin.

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Martina Ngo, the owner of Charme Natural Nails Studio and Comcast RISE grant recipient (and her furry pal), are excited about the future. Photo courtesy: Charme Natural Nails Studio

Charme Natural Nails Studio

Martina Ngo, whose Charme Natural Nails Studio faced multiple obstacles during the pandemic, is genuinely grateful for the opportunities provided by the grant. Keeping the studio’s doors open and being able to pay her staff a living wage were two of the major hurdles she was able to overcome with assistance from the Comcast RISE program.

The small business owner especially appreciates how the program “provides opportunities for BIPOC and women-owned businesses, empowers women to step outside the box to become independent and branch out, and encourages diversity, creativity and opportunities of mentorships.”

Ngo, who had pre-pandemic plans to expand her business, could not do so because she had to use her expansion budget just to stay afloat. “I had to dip into our ‘rainy day’ fund to keep the salon floating and employees paid. With receiving this Comcast RISE grant, Charme and myself will have the additional funds to rebuild our rainy day fund, continue to maintain living wages for our staff, and establish and grow our community partnerships.”

And it truly all boils down to our local communities. As Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement about Comcast’s comprehensive initiative, “Small businesses make our communities vibrant places to live and work, and they have shown tremendous resilience over the last two years. The Comcast RISE grants will provide a boost for women and BIPOC-owned small businesses, investing in an equitable recovery and giving these businesses that make up the very fabric of our communities the tools needed to thrive.”

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