Sixteen local business owned by women or minorities each received a cash grant to help them take their businesses to the next level.
- by Maurice Singleton
“People in the corporate world might say $2,000 will not go very far, but this is a small grant that will make a really big difference for people who own shops or restaurants with one or two employees. It’s guaranteeing that people will be able to find them, that they’ll be able to reach the right customers. I think it’s really going to move them to the next level of service.”
The 16 grant recipients represent a broad range of business categories. They are:
“Having these grant winners is going to help shape the culture and the character of the community,” said Williams. “Like the Education Annex –that’s the only education service of its kind in Hancock County. Dr. (Rymsky) Labat has done an extraordinary job, especially in putting together seminars and workshops for parents of students with learning disabilities.”
Dr. Labat said that her grant will be used for additional materials and to grow exposure. “It means more teaching supplies. It means community outreach, sharing with parents what it means to have a child with a disability such as dyslexia or ADHD, and what it means to look for intervention and what support is out there.
“We have a lot of needs in the community,” Dr. Labat added. “We have gaps, and now the gaps are bigger because of the pandemic and virtual learning and being quarantined multiple times. The grant will go a long way toward helping us identify students and serving them.”
Williams elaborated on how one grant in particular would be beneficial in a cultural sense: “A lot of the grant winners, especially minority-owned, create a sense of place in the community, especially Anjie's (Mercado de La Bahia). People who are homesick or want to know more about Hispanic culture, this is the perfect place for them to go.
“Anjie is great – she has a great story,” said Williams of Anjelica Hernandez-Pierson, who opened Mercado de la Bahia a year ago.
“We’re from South Texas, the Rio Grande Valley,” said Hernandez-Pierson. “Coming from South Texas, all of the foods that we like to eat from Mexico are limited here. So every two to three months I was going back home to visit my parents, and I’d do a lot of purchasing. Every time I went back people would ask, ‘Would you bring me this?’ or ‘Can you bring me that back?’ or, ‘Can you bring me medication?’
“So it just kind of grew from a lot of our family and friends that were asking for items,” Hernandez-Pierson explained. “So I would come back with a truckload of items. We decided that if we’re doing this, maybe the community needs it.”
Like many of the grant recipients, Hernandez-Pierson is going to use her grant money to grow awareness of her retail store and meat market. She said that the grant will allow her to market Mercado de la Bahia beyond “word of mouth.”
The grant awards program was a first for the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, according to Williams. However, she sees the first event as a huge success.
“This is our first year. Other chambers have administered the program before, but this was sort of our audition,” said Williams. “It went very well. I think we’ve chosen some great grant recipients. We’re hoping that (the program) will be funded again in the future.
“A huge thank you to Mississippi Power,” Williams added. “Jason Farve has been a really great member of our foundation board and chamber board, and he’s done so much to support the small business community. A big thank you to him and wishing the best of luck to all the people who received grants. We’re looking forward to seeing how they use them.”
Jason Farve is the area manager-West for Mississippi Power’s Coast Division. He grew up in Bay St. Louis and has enjoyed a nine-year career with Mississippi Power, with assignments in Georgia and Mississippi. He is excited about returning home to be a part of the growth of Hancock County.
“We like to give money away every year to different things that are going to help growth in the economy, economic development and education,” said Farve. “What we decided to do this year is to give away $50,000 in the form of grants to small business owners who are one of two things: minority- or women-owned businesses. In this case, today, we’re giving away sixteen $2,000 grants.”
The Hancock County Chamber of Commerce’s Women- and Minority-owned Business grants process was managed by the Hancock County Community Development Foundation, currently headed by Wendy McDonald.
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