Wish, a digital platform launched in 2010 by Piotr Szulczewski and Danny Zhang, is recognizable for its signature white and blue site, which connects over 100 million manufacturers directly to consumers, wants to do more than just get its customers great deals. On September 23, Wish announced the start of its “Wish Local Empowerment Program,” designed to aid over 4,000 small businesses across the country.
Through this program, eligible business owners can apply for grants ranging from $500 to $2,000 to help them rebuild following economic losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. These funds are allowed to be used for a variety of business needs—from inventory to marketing to the workforce. The only qualifying criteria are that the applicants be 100% Black-owned or majority Black-owned, a brick-and-mortar store based in the US, employing 20 or fewer full-time employees, and have a revenue of less than $1 million in the last year. The program will be brought to life through a partnership with the Official Black Wall Street and Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce (LIAACC).
The timing of this program launching in the middle of the pandemic, says Wish’s vice president of Experience Hassan Yahya, is no coincidence.
“This is something we've wanted to do for some time but the [COVID-19] pandemic crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement has really fast-tracked our mission,” said Yahya in a statement. “The Wish Local Empowerment Program provides a starting point for us to support independent, black-owned businesses who are often denied government aid and lack other financial resources to fall back on. By joining the Wish Local network, we can help black-owned businesses tap into the growing demand for ecommerce, as well as diversify their core revenue streams.”
Yayha says the company really hopes this program can “make a difference and create a lasting impact on the equality and diversity of US businesses.”
The past few months have shone a light on—and widened—already existing inequalities for Black-business owners. Before the coronavirus pandemic drove many small businesses to the brink through months of shutdowns impacting both supply and demand for most industries, Black business owners already suffered from less access to funding, bias and bigotry, and diminished chances of rising up the ranks. This racial inequality, according to a recently released report from CitiBank, has cost the US economy a whopping $16 trillion in the past 20 years.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has only worsened the woes of Black business owners. A July report compiling research from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that 41% of Black-owned businesses—around 440,000 enterprises—had been shuttered by the coronavirus, while just 17% of white-owned businesses suffered the same fate.
“The disparate racial impact of the virus is deeply rooted in historic and ongoing social and economic injustices,” according to the Economic Policy Institute. “Persistent racial disparities in health status, access to health care, wealth, employment, wages, housing, income, and poverty all contribute to greater susceptibility to the virus—both economically and physically.”
Essentially, all disparities have been blown up over the past few months, leaving many Black-owned businesses struggling. That’s why support, like that from Wish, is more vital than ever.
To apply, business owners can visit the Wish website and fill in an application, which consists of questions about why your business should receive funding. A Wish committee will then review all applications and select the brick-and-mortar stores that will receive aid. All successful applicants will join the Wish Local program, a global network of 40,000 partner stores, which is the funding source of these grants.
The benefits of this fund works both ways, according to a press release from the company. Just as Wish hopes to support diversity, it recognizes that diversity will support its own growth. “The news further enhances Wish’s ongoing drive to expand its merchant footprint in North America and Europe and, in doing so, revitalize local communities who are amongst the hardest hit by the [COVID-19] pandemic.”
About the Author
Jemima is a journalist who enjoys reporting on business, particularly small business and entrepreneurship.