In 2020 Comcast RISE (which stands for Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment) was created to help small businesses hardest hit by COVID-19 recover while benefitting their communities and advancing the objectives of diversity, equity and inclusion. With the pandemic now largely behind us, the program is further evolving to help even more small businesses that are in a position to grow. From June 1-30, eligible small businesses in Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, Philadelphia and Portland, OR, will be able to apply at ComcastRISE.com. A total of 100 grants per city, or 500 grants total, will be announced and awarded in August 2023. In this interview, Pooja Midha, General Manager at Effectv offers further details.
How successful has Comcast RISE been so far?
Pooja Midha: Very. Since 2020, Comcast RISE has awarded 13,000 recipients in more than 1,300 cities spanning 38 states $110 million in monetary, marketing, and technology grants. These recipients include all types of business owners, spanning restaurants, barber shops, childcare centers, retail stores and more.
It's been incredible to watch as these small businesses have continued to grow and scale their businesses. We've been shining a light on their progress through various marketing and communications efforts. It's inspiring to know and learn about each of their journeys -- the challenges overcome, and sacrifices made as they achieve success. We are so excited about where the program is going and looking forward to awarding another 500 recipients in the summer!
What makes this program unique and why is it personal for you?
This is a special program to so many people for so many reasons. For me, it's extra special to be an executive sponsor because, in many ways, I hear the stories and values of my own family reflected in many of our recipients. My grandfather was the owner of a small business, which was later where my uncle and cousins worked. My parents were immigrants as well as entrepreneurs themselves. Working on this program often brings me back to the way I grew up, and the incredible rise I saw my own parents go through. I also grew up in a small city where small businesses like my parents' favorite coffee shop, our local repair store, and hairdresser, were a huge part of creating community. So, for me, this work feels personal. I am so grateful to be a part of the impact this program makes for so many, and proud to work for a company like Comcast that makes such work possible.
What outreach did Comcast RISE do to promote this among entrepreneurs inside and outside Comcast's cable/Xfinity markets?
Our team partners with a multicultural digital marketing agency to promote the program on a national scale. Additionally, we work with non-profit partners across the country to assist with promoting the program to eligible small businesses locally. There are also TV spots running on Xfinity and a dynamic out-of-home campaign with billboards featuring Comcast RISE recipients across the country ... including a huge one right in Times Square! Our communications teams also does significant outreach to both national and local press to secure media coverage of the program, with a call to action for small business owners to apply.
This year, we produced The Road to RISE, a documentary that premiered in February. It follows the lives of four small business owners on their journey to achieving their dreams. The documentary really brings to light how these entrepreneurs find success. It's not only inspirational but a good reminder to audiences everywhere of the power of perseverance and the impact of Comcast RISE. So essentially our approach has been to use every means possible to get the word out and get as many people as possible engaged with the program!
Beyond grants, how does Comcast RISE support entrepreneurs?
We know the monetary component of the program has tremendous impact, but the needs of these small business owners and the program's impact goes well beyond investment. Comcast RISE takes a comprehensive approach to help strengthen and empower these. Our investment in their success goes beyond grants, to include technology, marketing and other services. Comcast RISE also is really focused on education, and there's nothing more empowering in this world than education. The program is not just about "winning" and moving on; it's about giving small business owners the tools and the opportunity to learn how to build, learn, grow and sustain their business and success.
Will this project continue to support its first-wave entrepreneurs?
Yes! Recipients from our latest round announcement are still receiving their awards, which include one or more of the following resources: 12-months of service from Comcast Business, business consultation services, and media campaign support from Effectv. All program recipients also receive ongoing support through promotional listings on ComcastRISE.com, and a monthly newsletter with business insights and resources. As they transition from pandemic recovery to a focus on expansion and growth, we will continue our efforts and help an even broader range of small businesses, with a continuing interest in diversity, inclusion, and community investment.
When it comes to the future of the program, there's still so much more to come. Comcast RISE isn't just a campaign or a moment in time; it's an ongoing commitment to our communities. The program is also part of Comcast's larger Project UP initiative, which is all about closing the digital divide and building a world of unlimited possibilities. We'll continue to do this work and help make sure that small businesses have the opportunity to succeed.
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