Grants boost women, minority-owned businesses at Summerfest

NOW: Grants boost women, minority-owned businesses at Summerfest

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- There are more than 100 vendors at Summerfest but nine of them are part of a unique program to help amplify the power for women and minority-owned businesses.

One of those businesses is Keepinitmil LLC, which founder and CEO Cesar Cornier says is a brand focused on, "unifying people through music, fashion and art."

Cornier grew up on Milwaukee's south side and remembers attending Summerfest as a kid. Now, as a business owner, he is relishing the experience.

"I think Keepinitmil having a chance to be at the world's largest music fest, where we are representing our culture, which is Milwaukee, specifically the south side of Milwaukee I think is a special opportunity," Cornier told CBS 58.

"Keepinitmil is one of nine recipients of the EMpower grant from BMO, which is a program sharing support to women and minority-owned businesses.

"From a financial empowerment standpoint and a financial award standpoint, as well as from financial literacy, coaching, business strategy and other connections to help to grow and flourish their businesses here at Summerfest," Jud Snyder, BMO Senior Executive for Southeast Wisconsin, said in an interview.

Another recipient is Lilo Allen of Papyrus & Charms, a culturally conscious wearable art business in Milwaukee's Bronzeville neighborhood.

"I don't take this for granted, this is like a great opportunity," Allen said.

The business owner said the grant from BMO allows her to be in front of a consumer crowd like the one at Summerfest she otherwise would not have the resources to do.

"There's a lack of equity when you go into spaces like this," Allen said. "Black and brown-owned businesses don't always have the capital to pull off a feat as large as Summerfest and once you get that extra assistance it really levels the playing field."

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