TRAVERSE CITY — Venture North received a $200,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation that will fund a series of mini-grants to help small businesses regroup in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown.

“Consumers wants to help those small businesses that may not have benefited from some of the other emergency programs through FDA and MEDC,” said Venture North Funding and Development Executive Director Laura Galbraith.

The foundation is donating $1.8 million to nine organizations, including Venture North’s COVID Emergency Grant Fund, to provide a lifeline to small businesses across Michigan, focusing in particular on helping female- and minority-owned businesses.

“Our proposal includes Leelanau, Benzie and Grand Traverse counties,” Galbraith said, and focuses on mini-grants of up to $5,000 each.

“These are very small businesses with 20 or fewer employees, who are putting in a lot of protocols to be safe through this crisis,” she said.

Eligible businesses can be currently operating or planning to reopen.

Venture North hopes to leverage the $200,000 from Consumers to attract more funding from various sources to help local small businesses recover from the coronavirus shutdown, said Galbraith. A goal of $500,000 total could fuel a stream of mini-grants across three counties for several weeks, she said.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and have been significantly impacted during this unprecedented time,” Brandon Hofmeister, president of the foundation, said in a release.

Eight other entities also received $200,000 each, and they will provide funding directly to small businesses in their communities. They are:

  • Battle Creek Unlimited’s COVID-19 Emergency Microgrant Fund
  • The Greater Grand Rapids Chamber Foundation’s Rapid Response Economic Relief Fund
  • Saginaw Future’s Small Business Fund
  • United Way of Greater Battle Creek & Kalamazoo Region’s Kalamazoo Small Business Microgrant Fund
  • Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Restart Flint & Genesee Fund
  • Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP)’s One & All Program
  • The Jackson Community Foundation’s Small Business Fund
  • Michigan Women Forward’s Resilience Microloan & Grant Fund Program