PA 30 Day Fund Comes to the Community
By Nana Ama Addo
Although there are resources available to cushion small business owners in Pennsylvania during COVID-19, many of them require applicants to tiptoe across a tightrope of criteria to access them. The Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund however gives up to $3000 forgivable loan to small businesses. It is a hassle-free application, and aims to provide financial support for Pennsylvania small businesses in light of this pandemic.
Launched in May 2020, this loan is funded by volunteer-based donations and works to help small businesses protect their employees’ jobs. Recipients of this fund do not have to repay the grants they are allotted. The initial founding members of the PA 30 Day Fund’s Advisory Board include Cassandra Bailey, Jeff Bartos, Roger Braunfeld, Jeffrey Brown, Maia Comeau, Thomas P. Nerney, Richard Phillips and Mustafa Rashed. FunTimes speaks to Jeff Brown, philanthropist, founder of Brown Super Stores Inc. and co-founder of the PA 30 Day Fund.
Jeff Brown is the founder, President and CEO of Brown’s Super Stores Inc, which operates over 10 ShopRite stores in the tristate area. He is a fourth generation grocer, and provides thousands of jobs to community members through his business. Mr. Brown explains the inspiration behind creating the PA 30 Day Fund: “Jeff Bartos got the idea from a friend that did the same thing in Virginia. We also got up and going very quickly because we used the Virginia 30 Day Fund’s technology and processes. I’m very concerned that many small Philadelphia area businesses won’t be able to re-open or stay in business because of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis and shutdown. We believe that the 30 Day Fund can save many small businesses that are the pillars of our communities.”
We also interviewed African Cultural Art Forum (ACAF,) a pillar in the community and a recipient of the award, to create awareness about this resource, as well as learn about fund’s inception and impact.
If you have ever graced the 52nd Street strip of West Philadelphia, you may have noticed a breathtaking mural sitting proudly on the corner of Chancellor Street, complete with paintings of Marcus Garvey, Malcom X, adinkra symbols, cowrie shells and colorful hues of blue, maroon, and yellow. When you enter the African Cultural Art Forum shop, under their mural, you are immediately welcomed with warm scents of ACAF’s acclaimed incense. The colorful jewelry, oils, books, soaps and fabrics, sourced from various societies of the global African diaspora, fill the shop and take you to a place you may or may not have been, in this lifetime or lifetimes ago. ACAF, founded by Brother Sharif Abdur-Rahim and Brother Rashie Abdul Samad, has been a pillar in the Black Philadelphian community for over 50 years, and is one of the many businesses that has received the PA 30 Day Fund.
Brother Sharif and Brother Rashie describe COVID’s impact on their business: “Being in business since 1969, this is the first time we’ve experienced something like this. COVID-19 has altered our business because we had to close the doors to our retail store and factory, which affected our production. Large events that take place during this time of the year where we usually vend were cancelled. All of these changes affected our income.”
They learned about the PA 30 Day Fund through the Merchant Fund. In explaining the straightforwardness of the application process, Brother Sharif and Brother Rashid say “The application process for this grant was easier than some of the other grants we applied for. The applying process was very simple and different due to the fact that we had to submit a video.” In utilizing this loan, they plan to get their business back on track, and purchase materials that will be used for their summer youth program.
To support ACAF, shop their products in local supermarkets (ShopRite, ACME and Fresh Grocer), convenient stores and visit their website here. When their shop reopens, you can visit their acclaimed retail location on 221 S. 52nd Street. Brother Sharif and Brother Rashie also provide community members the opportunity to earn extra money by joining their affiliate program. They tell us “The highest compliment a client can give is to recommend ACAF to a friend or relative. Your referrals are appreciated!”
Mr. Brown has valuable advice for small business owners to leverage their services during this pandemic. He says “I would encourage you to apply for every type of government help that’s out there. To do well with government programs, choosing the right banker is very important to help you get a compliant application submitted. I also think that all businesses need to pivot to new business models that allow for safe resumption for employees and customers. This normally includes operational changes. For improved safety, this can look like moving toward online commerce and adjusting offerings to help customers with challenges caused by the crisis. We welcome the African and Caribbean small business community to apply. For those that can help, I can’t think of a better way to support our communities’ long term success than saving as many small businesses as possible through this Tax deductible endeavor of contributing to the fund.”
We thank Jeff Brown for supporting the PA 30 Day Fund to become a resource for Philadelphia businesses, and ACAF for sharing their story with us. An important lesson to learn from the ACAF Tribe is that economic empowerment has the power to be a positive source of strength in our communities. The PA 30 Day Fund reminds us that it truly takes a village to raise a child, which in this case is a business. Learn more about the PA 30 Day Fund here.
Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Visit her storytelling brand at www.asieduasimprint.blog, and connect with her creative agency on Instagram: @chitheagency.