An organization plans to bike about 375 miles to raise money to help Black-owned businesses and nonprofits.
Black Leaders Detroit hosts the seven-day ride from Detroit to Mackinaw City called the BLD: Ride for Equity. The group plans to leave from Detroit at 8 a.m. Sunday.
“Black leadership in Detroit still not having the same level of access as everyone else — this is a problem that should’ve been solved,” said Dwan Dandridge, president and founder of Black Leaders Detroit. “We shouldn’t still be having a discussion about equity in a city that’s (78.3%) Black.”
The group will arrive at Mackinaw City on Sept. 18, two days before the Mackinac Policy Conference — the annual statewide event that focuses on issues in economics, government and policy — begins. Before getting to Mackinaw City, the group will make pit stops to sleep in Lapeer, Saginaw, Clare, Cadillac, Elk Rapids and Petoskey. They will complete between 41 to 70 miles per day.
Dandridge, 47, of Detroit has been training every day to make this journey. He’s used to completing 20-mile rides, but not up to 70 miles in one day. He said he was inspired to launch the bike ride after spending a lot of time talking to Black business and organization leaders who were looking for funding during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The money really helps, but there are things that we experience as Black people — like feeling invisible at times,” Dandridge said. “I think that’s one of the things that they experienced that’s a byproduct of the donation. Somebody knows that they’re there. Somebody has them in mind. People just get a different level of hope when they realize that there was a pot set up that was going to be exclusively from them.”
Businesses, nonprofits need capital
Dandridge said he felt the need to start the nonprofit in 2019 after having his own experiences being an entrepreneur and a grassroots organization leader. He needed access to capital and couldn’t receive it, so he was often paying to keep his ventures afloat out of his own pocket. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that 70.6% of Black entrepreneurs rely on themselves and their families to support their businesses.
“A lot of people (turn to) their pocket to run for-profit and nonprofit organizations because there is such a limit of access to capital for the Black entrepreneur in Detroit,” Dandridge said.
Dandridge said trying to access capital as a Black entrepreneur is difficult. Black entrepreneurs are nearly three times more likely to experience a negative impact in growth and profits than white entrepreneurs, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Many business owners and nonprofit leaders who Dandridge said he has connected with often get denied funding after navigating lengthy application processes or not meeting the strenuous requirements.
Black Leaders Detroit’s long-term goal is to give business owners and nonprofits access to capital through grants and loans by raising money through crowdfunding. Participants of the community can donate $1 a week, and there is a goal to have 1 million people donating each week. Right now, there are over 500 people participating, and the organization was given a grant to create a strategic plan to grow its membership.
So far, the organization has distributed over $300,000 to small businesses and nonprofits. Originally, the plan was to give small businesses the opportunity to apply for no-interest loans and nonprofits can apply for grants. But things changed quickly for the nonprofit.
“We pivoted last year to just do grants for for-profit, nonprofits alike because of the devastation that the pandemic was causing,” Dandridge said. The original structure will go back into place next year. “In January 2022, people will be able to access applications. When we put out RFPs, they’ll be able to access them on BlackLeadersDetroit.org.”
Grants range from $700 to $5,000 each. In June, $2,500 grants were given to 10 for-profits and 10 nonprofits. Another round of $2,500 grants from a pool of $50,000 was distributed in August. In January, the organization is aiming to distribute micro-loans to businesses ranging from $4,000 to $25,000.
“I see us doing something that can be easily replicated in other cities with large Black populations,” Dandridge said. “What I really want to see us have is real opportunity. That’s what drives me every day — is access to real opportunity. I think that we have amazing, hardworking folks in this city, and many other cities like it, that have the drive, the ability and the creativity that it takes to run thriving businesses and organizations.”
How to support the BLD: Ride for Equity
There is still time to join the group in the biking journey by registering on the organization’s website at https://blackleadersdetroit.org. There will be support vehicles available to assist during the ride. You can also donate to the initiative on the Black Leaders Detroit website.