Food & Drink

DoorDash Establishes Grant Program For Women- And BIPOC-Owned Restaurants Disproportionately Affected By Covid

DoorDash has certainly been busy since its New York Stock Exchange debut in December.

In the past two months, the company has expanded its Dasher Rewards program, added a restaurant advisory council and acquired robotics company Chowbotics, for example. It has also expanded its Main Street Strong Program, a five-year, $200 million initiative first announced in May aimed at helping restaurants recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic.

Today, DoorDash added a new component to that program, called the Main Street Strong Accelerator. The objective is to provide financial support and specialized educational resources specifically to women-, immigrant- and people of color-owned businesses that have been disproportionally impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

DoorDash is committing $2 million toward the first cohort of the program, which will include 100 restaurateurs in five cities–New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia. Those restaurateurs will receive a $20,000 grant and access to an eight-week-long educational program developed to teach business tactics–like marketing, managing cash flow and menu creation–to help sustain their business after the crisis ends.

According to a recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the number of female business owners who ranked their business’ overall health as “somewhat or very good” fell 13 points during the pandemic, from 60% in January to 47% in July 2020. Conversely, male business owners “good” business health status fell by just five points. Further, a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 41% of Black-owned businesses have been shuttered by Covid-19, compared to 17% of White-owned businesses.

“This program would be important in any situation, because these entrepreneurs have always faced less access to resources and capital. During Covid, however, those challenges have become much more drastic. We wanted to figure out how to support those business owners who have been so dramatically impacted by this,” said Tasia Hawkins, DoorDash’s social impact manager.

The program was created with help from the Accion Opportunity Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing financial access to business owners who often lack such services. Over 90% of AOF’s small business clients are women, immigrants and people of color.

The Main Street Strong Accelerator’s curriculum was also created from the learnings of two of DoorDash’s existing initiatives: Kitchens Without Borders, created in March 2019 to support immigrant and refugee business owners, and its Black-owned business initiatives, announced in July 2020 to support Black-owned businesses.  

“We are focused on the things that drive revenues and orders and reiterating those messages so there is sustained commitment from customers toward these businesses,” Hawkins said.

With its accelerator program, DoorDash is striving for that sustainment to come from within the businesses themselves. The eight-week, online curriculum, from April 5 through May 28, was created to inform participants how to execute on their business plan for the long term. The first week covers defining their concept, for example, including their food and their neighborhood.

“We want to make sure they’re articulating what their business is so they have something foundational,” Hawkins said.

The second week provides a financial roadmap on how to access capital, including any available loans. The third week includes an overview of legal basics to know; for example, lease negotiations. This session allows participants to interact with the non-profit entity called Start Small, Think Big, on a pro bono basis.

“Everyone in the program gets one year of pro bono legal support from Start Small, Think Big, which is a really important part. These businesses don’t tend to have legal support or legal teams and might not know how to negotiate their lease or reach out to City Council, or even that they can do that to help them,” Hawkins said.

From there, the classes cover everything from menu inventory and pricing to marketing to integrating the right technology tools and scaling the brand. Program participants receive the first $10,000 in grants at the beginning of the program to provide them with immediate relief, while the second $10,000 grant is provided at the end of the program to use toward building their long-term foundation based on what they learn.

In addition to providing educational and foundational curriculum to this group of restaurateurs, the program also hopes to build a strong network of resources among the participants. DoorDash has created an advisory committee that includes Ellen Yin, co-founder and owner of High Street Hospitality Group; Tanya Holland, executive chef and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen; and Deborah VanTrece, creative director and owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours, who will also be accessible to the participants throughout the program for guidance and expertise.

“We are trying to be intentional with our sessions, but we also want to build community and get these business owners to connect and share their stories and issues and get input from each other. We want this to be a community-building, problem-solving program,” Hawkins said.

This is also why DoorDash has kept the program small in this first year, with just 100 recipients and five cities.

“Ideally this program will be able to go deeper with a smaller set of businesses and provide not just educational resources, but also mentorship resources,” Hawkins said. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure these business owners feel empowered and have the resources they need–that they have the confidence and tools to keep their doors open.”

DoorDash plans to build on this program after year one, ideally expanding both participant numbers and locations.

“We’re aiming to make these small businesses as successful as we can. Our mission is to empower local economies. There are so many ways we can expand this, but right now we’re focused on being intentional about what restaurants need and the impact this is going to make in their communities,” Hawkins said.

Applications for the Main Street Strong Accelerator Program close on March 2 at 5 p.m. PT. Applications, along with eligibility requirements and criteria, are available online.


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