M&T Bank has stepped up in support of the Buffalo operations of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll), a national nonprofit that works in communities across the country to accelerate economic and social impact through inclusive entrepreneurship. M&T has announced that it has committed $300,000 towards the Buffalo chapter of EforAll, which will be allocated over the course of three years, along with additional support by M&T employees who will serve as mentees.
The infusion of funding will be used to help historically underserved communities to start and grow their businesses. The local effort is bolstered by a partnership between EforAll and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), which resulted in EforAll opening a Buffalo office in 2021. Participating entrepreneurs now have access to many of the resources (including networking and business development) required to establish themselves in their respective markets – something that might have previously been out of reach for many of them.
“When starting a business, people often rely on their network for connections to information and resources that help them navigate the ambiguity that accompanies entrepreneurship,” said M&T Western New York Regional President Eric Feldstein. “Many people in our community find themselves at a disadvantage because they don’t have that experience in their social circle – and disproportionately these would-be entrepreneurs are from diverse racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds. We’re committed to making a difference in people’s lives and helping entrepreneurs pursue dreams of starting businesses that uplift our community. Our collaboration with EforAll will help ensure every Western New Yorker knows entrepreneurship is attainable and there’s support available to help them throughout their journey.”
Each entrepreneur that participates in the 12-week program is expected to meet with his or her mentors (three per mentee) for at least 90 minutes per week. After that initial round of programming ends, the meetings are held once a month, as the entrepreneurs begin to spread their wings.
The EforAll Business Accelerator is a free, year-long program. Current enrollees are 74% women, 58% BIPOC (black, indigenous, or people of color), and 46% immigrants.
Among the people it has supported:
- Danielle Sharp combined her lifelong passion for crafting and her experience with sewing to create My Legacy Embroidery & Crafts, which provides embroidery and crafting services for personalized gifts and small businesses’ branded apparel. She is the company’s owner and CEO.
- Samantha Long, a web designer by trade, founded Mazus Media LLC to help nonprofits and small businesses reach their goals with functional and responsive website designs. She serves as the firm’s owner and CEO.
- DeVaughn Jones created Warr Room Decompress Inc. to offer a safe space for both active and calming activities that help individuals manage stress in healthy ways. He is the president and co-founder of the company.
Aside from the networking and skills-building opportunities, EforAll organizes pitch contests, and opens doors for potential grant funding.
“Our focus on inclusive entrepreneurship refers to our ongoing and collaborative work to ensure everyone, no matter who they are or where they’re from, can access the resources and support they need to start and grow their own business,” said EforAll Executive Director Juweria Dahir. “M&T Bank has shown its commitment to building a more equitable and sustainable community, and we’re excited to have them as part of this program. Their expertise, knowledge and experience will provide invaluable resources to people from traditionally marginalized communities. When those individuals succeed, it expands out to the broader community showing others that entrepreneurship is indeed possible for all.”
“The mentors play a critical role in the EforAll experience — building deep connections and helping people develop and grow as entrepreneurs,” said Favio Osorio, an EforAll mentor and multicultural banking program manager at M&T Bank. “We’ve had opportunities to accumulate experiences and knowledge in our fields, and it’s rewarding to be able to share what we’ve learned to help local entrepreneurs.”
“Having a mentor is like having a GPS to help guide you to your desired destination, as you launch a startup and navigate the unforeseen obstacles that come up along the way,” said EforAll mentor Shannon Johnson, a branch manager for M&T Bank. “With a mentor, you save time, energy and resources while engaging with someone who’s passionate about your journey. It has been such a rewarding experience to uplift and empower entrepreneurs, and I’ve absorbed new insights and perspectives while mentoring, too.”
M&T Senior Software Engineer Gregory Cherry and Senior Diversity and Inclusion Manager Shai Arnold are also serving as EforAll mentors.
M&T has significantly grown its multicultural banking initiative over the last year, establishing two multicultural banking centers in Buffalo and 116 others across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
Last year, M&T launched a Multicultural Small Business Innovation Lab (to serve Buffalo’s East Side), which has already proven to be successful in numerous instances. For example, Buffalo Rising covered a couple of young entrepreneurs – sisters Alisa and Alicia Officer of Unapologetic Coffee – who recently opened a roastery and café at 1375 Main Street. The sisters benefitted via guidance and education in business planning, establishing credit, accessing capital, marketing, and networking. They even participated in a ‘Shark Tank’-style venture competition, where they received a $3000 grant to help get the ball rolling.
These are the types of initiatives that are inspirational, as well as tangible. By fortifying underserved communities with the resources that they require to launch successful businesses, we are not only investing in people, we are investing in at-risk neighborhoods. Sounds like a win-win all around.