DoorDash announced its Main Street Strong Accelerator, an initiative providing financial support and specialized educational resources to women-, immigrant- and people of color-owned businesses, who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Developed in close collaboration with Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF), the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender and support organization, the Accelerator helps in the creation of equitable access to opportunity in the restaurant industry with programming designed to help restaurateurs stabilize and adapt their business for long-term success. Applications open today to small business restaurateurs in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and Philadelphia, and 100 restaurateurs will be selected to participate in the program’s inaugural year.
The entire restaurant industry has experienced the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, but BIPOC-owned businesses are at the greatest risk of permanent closure and economic setback. Black-owned businesses are closing at rates twice as fast as other businesses, and nearly half of Latinx business owners expect to permanently close within six months. Additionally, women-owned businesses disproportionately feel the impacts of COVID-19.
“The social and financial inequities that many businesses experienced before the pandemic have only been amplified by the current global pandemic and economic crisis,” says Tony Xu, CEO and Co-founder of DoorDash. “To truly empower and grow local economies, you must start with the entrepreneur. With a commitment to advancing diversity and equity starting with the restaurant industry, we’re excited to provide business owners with specialized tools to thrive during one of the most challenging times of our generation.”
Together, DoorDash and Accion Opportunity Fund, along with restaurant industry experts, constructed an eight-week course that will cover topics such as marketing, technology integration, managing cash flow and menu creation. Throughout the program, participants will create a personalized business plan, a compilation of all their completed weekly assignments, to help them implement newly learned skills directly to their businesses. Participants will also build a strong network of fellow entrepreneurs to further foster a supportive community through connection.
Accion Opportunity Fund (AOF) is lending its expertise by building the Main Street Strong Accelerator Program to best meet the needs of restaurant owners most impacted by the pandemic. Over 90 percent of the nonprofit’s small business clients are women, immigrants, and people of color.
“Restaurants have been among the industries most severely impacted during this pandemic. And, like all sectors, those owned by women, immigrants, and people of color suffered the most, because they had less resources to fall back on and fewer connections to access initial relief from the federal government,” says Luz Urrutia, Accion Opportunity Fund CEO. “It’s clear and unfortunate that the future of the industry has changed forever. If we want to make space for food visionaries from diverse backgrounds to contribute to the future of food, dining, job creation, and community-building, we must intentionally focus on these business owners to support their adaptation, creativity, and liquidity.”
Additionally, DoorDash will deploy $2M in grants to the program participants to respond to the pandemic’s unique challenges and invest in their operations for the future. The grants will be made in two $10,000 payments, one at the start and one at the end of the program in May.
DoorDash has convened an Advisory Committee composed of leading restaurant owners and operators to formalize Accelerator programming and provide further professional and educational support. The committee includes:
- Ellen Yin, co-founder and owner of High Street Hospitality Group which includes Fork, High Street Philly, High Street on Hudson, a.kitchen + a.bar, and author of Forklore: Recipes and Tales from an American Bistro
- Tanya Holland, executive Chef and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen, author of The Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook and New Soul Cooking and member of the Board of Trustees for the James Beard Foundation
- Deborah VanTrece, Creative Director and Owner, Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours, and author of The Twisted Soul Cookbook: Modern Soul Food with Global Flavor
- Nyesha Arrington, host of Eater’s Plateworthy and Vice President of Community Engagement at The Collective Identity Mentoring
As longtime and successful industry operators, these entrepreneurs will bring expertise, acumen and mentorship to help shape a program that will have a lasting impact on the small business entrepreneurs selected.