By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – Some experts fear that many struggling, minority-owned businesses haven’t been able to access federal funds through initiatives like the Paycheck Protection Program. Now, a Denver-based non-profit organization is raising money specifically for small businesses owned by black women.

The organization is called Soul 2 Soul Sisters, and it’s helping a wide variety of businesses, including a fitness company, photography business, and Ethiopian restaurant at Edgewater Public Market. The faith-based nonprofit, which focuses on racial healing and social justice, has donated no-strings-attached money to 16 businesses so far, and has eight more lined up to start receiving checks next week.

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“More often than not, black women business owners have reached out to multiple resources and have not received any kind of financial donations,” said Briana Simmons, with Soul 2 Soul Sisters.

The help couldn’t have come at a better time for Yarkenda Payne, who started focusing all of her professional efforts on her web-based company, Payne Creative Agency, this year. Since the pandemic started, she estimates she’s lost about half of her clients.

(credit: CBS)

“People who I’m creating websites for had to pause their projects, because they are no longer in business, so it was like a trickle-down effect,” Payne said. “Really, I’m in survival mode. How can I survive through this, or do I need to pick up a job?”

Payne tells CBS4 she tried to apply for a few traditional financial aid programs but didn’t have much luck until she found Soul 2 Soul Sisters.

(credit: McBoat Photography)

Since April, the organization has aggressively raised funds in the community with the hopes of providing some relief to black women business owners.

“We knew that by supporting black women business owners, we would not only be helping to lift them up and maintain their stability as best as we could, but we would also be lifting up their families, and in turn, the community as well,” Simmons said.

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Recipients of the donations are free to use the money in whatever way they want, whether it be paying employees or covering losses. The organization does ask recipients to write a testimonial about their experience.

(credit: CBS)

“We’re using that to help generate more funds to talk to people about the impact that this is having on folks,” Simmons said. “Otherwise, there are no strings attached.”

According to Simmons, the organization picks eight businesses at a time and sends them a check on each Monday for two weeks. After that, eight new businesses are brought into the rotation.

On Monday, Payne received her second and final check for this round. In total, Soul 2 Soul Sisters has donated about $1,300 to help her operate her web design business.

“It’s literally keeping my business alive and I don’t know what I would’ve done without it,” Payne said.

For Payne, it’s not just about the money, but the recognition and empowerment that comes along with it.

“As a black woman, oftentimes we can feel invisible in a lot of situations, and it has shown itself even more during this pandemic, when it comes to financing and funding for our companies,” She said. “It literally means the world to me because I feel seen as a black woman-owned business, that my business matters.”

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(credit: McBoat Photography)

Soul 2 Soul Sisters plans to continue sending out donations through June. To apply or donate money to the fund, contact the organizers through the organization’s website.

Conor McCue