M&T Bank backs ‘Entrepreneurship for All’ Buffalo to drive inclusive entrepreneurship

Image courtesy of M&T Bank

Sat, April 16, 2022 1:15 p.m

The $300,000 pledge will strengthen and sustain community service to support the development and growth of small businesses in historically underrepresented communities

M&T Bank announced a $300,000 pledge to support the Buffalo-based activities of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll), a national nonprofit working in communities across the country to accelerate economic and social impact through inclusive entrepreneurship .

EforAll opened its Buffalo office last year in partnership with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) to help more people from historically underserved communities access the training and support they need to start and grow businesses.

In addition to the $300,000 grant awarded over a three-year period, M&T employees will serve as mentors to help participating entrepreneurs develop their business acumen to find solutions to shared startup challenges find and connect to an extended network of support services that can support their businesses.

“When starting a business, people often rely on their network to connect them to information and resources that help them navigate the ambiguity that comes with entrepreneurship. Many people in our community feel disadvantaged because they don’t have that experience in their communities – and these aspiring entrepreneurs come from disproportionately different racial, ethnic or cultural backgrounds,” said M&T Regional President Western New York, Eric Feldstein. “We are committed to making a difference in people’s lives and helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams of creating businesses that empower our communities. Our collaboration with EforAll will help ensure every Western New Yorker knows that entrepreneurship is attainable and that there is support to help them along the way.”

The EforAll business accelerator is a free, year-long program that begins with 12 weeks of intensive startup business training and mentoring, then evolves into a robust support system and expanded professional network. At the local level, the Accelerator program has provided support for entrepreneurs who have started businesses and non-profit organizations in a variety of industries, from unique home use products to technology services to holistic health solutions. Among the people it has supported:

√ Danielle Sharp combined her lifelong passion for crafts and sewing experience to create My Legacy Embroidery & Crafts, providing embroidery and craft services for personalized gifts and branded apparel for small businesses. She is the owner and CEO of the company.

√ Samantha Lang, a web designer by trade, founded Mazus Media LLC to help non-profit organizations and small businesses achieve their goals with functional and beautiful website designs. She acts as the owner and CEO of the company.

√ DeVaughn Jones founded Warr Room Decompress Inc. to provide a safe space for active and calming activities that help individuals manage stress in a healthy way. He is President and co-founder of the company.

Of the business owners currently enrolled in EforAll Buffalo’s Accelerator program, 74% are women; 58% are Black, Indigenous or Colored; and 46% are immigrants. EforAll also organizes pitch competitions to create opportunities for participating companies to gain additional exposure and potentially win funding to accelerate their growth.

“Our focus on inclusive entrepreneurship relates to our ongoing and collaborative work to ensure that everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, has access to the resources and support they need to start their own business and to expand,” EforAll Executive Director Juweria said Dahir. “M&T Bank has demonstrated their commitment to building a fairer and more sustainable community and we are delighted to have them as part of this programme. Their expertise, knowledge and experience will provide invaluable resources to people from traditionally marginalized communities. When these individuals are successful, it spreads to the wider community and shows others that entrepreneurship is indeed for everyone.”

Several M&T volunteers will participate in the program over the coming months. There are currently four M&T employees serving as mentors and have together invested around 72 hours supporting EforAll entrepreneurs over the past three months. During the 12-week intensive program, each entrepreneur is assigned three mentors with whom they meet weekly for at least 90 minutes. They become an informal advisory board that discusses needs, insights and opportunities. Mentor meetings will continue monthly after the first 12 weeks of the program.

“Mentors play a critical role in the EforAll experience – building deep connections and helping people develop and grow as entrepreneurs,” said Favio Osorio, an EforAll mentor and manager of multicultural banking programs at M&T Bank. “We’ve had the opportunity to gain experience and knowledge in our fields and it’s rewarding to share what we’ve learned to help local entrepreneurs.”

“Having a mentor is like a GPS guiding you to your desired destination as you start a startup and overcome the unforeseen obstacles that come along the way,” said EforAll mentor Shannon Johnson, branch manager at M&T Bank. “Having a mentor saves you time, energy and resources while engaging with someone who is passionate about your journey. It has been such a rewarding experience uplifting and empowering entrepreneurs and I have also picked up new insights and perspectives during the mentoring.”

M&T Senior Software Engineer Gregory Cherry and Senior Diversity and Inclusion Manager Shai Arnold also serve as EforAll mentors.

According to a press release, “This collaboration with EforAll builds on M&T’s commitment to expanding entrepreneurship and serving the needs of multicultural communities. It has significantly expanded its multicultural banking initiative over the past year, establishing two multicultural banking centers in Buffalo and 116 others in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. Last year, M&T launched a Multicultural Small Business Innovation Lab, which provides guidance and training in business planning, borrowing, access to capital, marketing and networking to multicultural businesses serving Buffalo’s east side. The program ended with a “shark tank”-style venture competition that awarded grants of up to $5,000 to three winners.

“The bank is also building community-based talent pipelines to expand access to digital and technology skills training. M&T’s Tech Academy has created several programs, including the Z Development Program, the WNY Tech Skills Initiative and the Data Analytics Bootcamp, designed to reach and serve people traditionally underrepresented in technology roles, especially people of color, women and veterans.”

In western New York, M&T employs approximately 8,000 people and has 66 offices in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties. In 2021, M&T awarded $8.4 million to more than 270 nonprofit organizations.

Leave a Comment