GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A local venture fund that focuses on West Michigan businesses owned by people of color has received two big investments.
The New Community Transformation Fund has received a $500,000 investment from the Steelcase Foundation and a $100,000 investment from the city of Grand Rapids. The venture fund, first started in 2020, has raised $11.85 million so far.
NCTF has made four investments and has three active in its portfolio, Managing Director Ollie Howie said, including BAMF Health, fintech company Zil Money and Grain, a company that helps people build their credit.
“The goal for NTCF is really to continue to help the community, to continue to provide returns for our investors and to continue to offer new avenues of capital funding for entrepreneurs,” Howie said.
He said the venture fund focuses on financial technology and “health care industries that catalyze our region and also help people in the region.”
All of the companies the fund has invested in have a diverse leadership team and have an impact on Michigan, Howie said.
“We’re able to invest in groups that are largely overlooked and we think that that does a lot for the community,” he said.
He added it’s important to invest in the next generation of Americans and to encourage economic growth in Michigan communities.
“A lot of Black and brown folks have been historically disenfranchised in the U.S. and so this is one way to create a change that just doesn’t stop,” he said.
Howie said the investment is “circular:” investing in an entrepreneur enables them to hire community members, leading to wealth creation for them and their employees.
The Steelcase Foundation believes in the power of education, Steelcase President and CEO Daniel Williams said. He said its “primary focus is on increasing access to quality public education and helping young people and their families achieve success.”
But that work isn’t in a bubble, he said.
“We need to think about how our investment strategy is a part of that work and that mission, not just sort of this separate thing. So investing with a venture fund that’s focused on boosting businesses owned by people of color, both in West Michigan but also bringing new businesses to the region, does this,” he explained.
The city of Grand Rapids’ investment aligns with its Strategic Plan and Equitable Economic Development and Mobility Strategic Plan, according to a release.
“This investment is aligned with the City’s strategy of supporting entrepreneurship and creates access to investment opportunities for historically marginalized communities, including communities of color,” City Manager Mark Washington said in the release. “This investment also is aligned with the City’s values of collaboration, innovation, and equity to help remove barriers created by systematic and institutional injustice.”