February 24, 2024

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Alvernia’s O’Pake Institute awards microfunding to minority-owned businesses

Five area small businesses have been awarded microgrant funding from the Financial Lending & Innovation Collaborative (FLIC), which is spearheaded by Alvernia University’s O’Pake Insitute.

The funding was awarded to four minority-owned businesses — three of which are women-owned — and one student-run business following pitch presentations by the businesses Nov. 4.

DN Organics, founded by Cory Varona-Corniel and Nicole Varona Cancelmo, received $5,000 for branding and marketing services and website development to expand its reach. Bryheem and Lavar Alston of Brotherly Love Cuts received $5,000 for new equipment for its third location in the Berkshire Mall. Fabienne Daniel of Fabz Food and Fit received $2,500 to purchase social media marketing equipment. Casha Love of Snazzy Beauty Supply received $2,500 for a new point-of-sale system.

“The FLIC grant will help us grow our business exponentially in the upcoming months. We are thankful for the support from The O’Pake Institute and the Alvernia community and their investment in local businesses from Berks County,” Nicol Varona Cancelmo, co-founder of DN Organics, said in a statement. “We were thrilled to pitch our business and be awarded one of the grants. We cannot wait to see how the ecosystem of entrepreneurs grows in our community and fosters many more successful businesses.”

In addition, Max Horn, an O’Pake Institute graduate assistant, received funding for the You Matter Movement LLC from the institute’s Student Innovation Fund which aids student entrepreneurs during the first stages of business.

“As we continue to focus on experiential learning for our students and economic development within communities we serve, the FLIC program allows us to fulfill that vision through the microgrant program and the Student Innovation Fund,” Alvernia University President, John R. Loyack, said in a statement.

According to a press release, funds for the program are provided by participating financial institutions, foundations and private donors, including  Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks Inc., Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, Kutztown SBDC, Visions Federal Credit Union, Riverfront Federal Credit Union, Barrio Alegria and Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute, where funding is courtesy of The PA 30-Day Fund, Schlouch Inc., and Allan Myers Inc.

“We are thrilled to present this funding to these invigorated, qualified, local entrepreneurs with the support of our generous partners,” Lizette Epps, director of the Financial Lending & Innovation Collaborative, said in a statement. She added that the businesses will continue to be supported through the institute’s Spark Business Incubator “until they graduate from the program into the next phase of the business life cycle.”

Services provided through the Spark incubator network include business planning, technology transfer, social media marketing, branding, and digital and traditional marketing and website development. Funded businesses are also required to match funding dollars or match goods and services to the community, according to the release.

As the clients prepared to present their pitches Nov. 4, they worked with students in the O’Pake Fellows Program and the O’Pake Finance Committee. Fellows Program students assist Financial Lending & Innovation Collaborative funding recipients and other Spark Business Incubator clients with business plan development, financial statements, and fostering financial literacy.

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