Nashville, Tenn. (TN Tribune) – duGard Communications (dGC) announced today the strategic communications firm has been awarded a small business grant from the Fifth Third Foundation through the Innovation Meets Main Street: Boosting Black, Woman-owned Businesses program. dGC was one of four small businesses, in Nashville, to receive the award and one of sixty-three, across the nation, who received grants from the $1.2 million program.
“We are honored to receive a small business grant designed to help African American, women-owned small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Perri duGard Owens, founder and CEO of duGard Communications. “Many of the clients we serve are small businesses themselves and while we have had the opportunity to assist them respond to new challenges over the past year, we too have had to ensure our own sustainability and continue to grow the business and serve clients across the country.”
duGard Communications was founded in 2013 by Nashville-native Perri duGard Owens. The firm provides strategic communications focusing on public relations, media relations, marketing, branding, public outreach and engagement on behalf of a diverse client base. A range of clients include serving entities like Getaway Society, East Chop Capital, TDOT, MNAA/BNA, Street Works, Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership (J.U.M.P), National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM), Amazon, HCA, along with many others.
“We know owning and operating a business creates wealth and a legacy,” said Stefanie Steward-Young, chief corporate social responsibility officer at Fifth Third Bank. “Yet Black-owned business owners often face challenges securing capital to start and maintain their business – even more so during these challenging times. This initiative couldn’t be more vital for Black communities in metropolitan areas like Atlanta, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Louisville, Nashville and Orlando. We are glad to have been a force behind this initiative.”
The Innovation Meets Main Street program fills a critical need in the economies of Black communities and for the small business community. Studies show that 41% of Black-owned businesses have been shuttered during the pandemic. To date, over sixty Black women have received funding or technical assistance to help them remain open. The partnership between Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity is part of a $8.75 million pledge from Fifth Third to support small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this program, LISC received $1 million from the Fifth Third Foundation, with $630,000 in grant funding awarded to 63 small businesses and $250,000 for an investment in the Fearless Fund. Additionally, AEO received $200,000 to provide business owners access to MainStreet RISE, a suite of critical tech-enabled tools and resources to keep businesses open and selling during and after the pandemic.
“This is extremely important and special to us, here at dGC, because I fondly recall Kevin Lavender, now executive vice president of Fifth Third Bank, coming to speak to me and my fellow assertive (and eager), then high school peers during INROADS/Nashville’s infamous (but extremely beneficial) Saturday sessions,” said duGard Owens. “His personal impact on the fabric of so many current leaders, makes receiving this grant even more special. While he had no involvement in our application or acceptance to this program, it’s his commitment (then and now) to shaping individuals, small businesses and corporations that makes this important to us and we’re honored to be chosen by the Fifth Third Foundation.”