The latest campaign to support Baltimore’s Black entrepreneurs is a little different from some of the other funding opportunities in the city. The “We Got Your Back” Campaign, organized by CLLCTIVLY, offers funds — $2,000 per month for a year — to a Black female entrepreneur. But unlike the majority of grant programs, there are no stipulations or conditions as to how the recipient must spend the money.
“We wanted to start a program that put the person first,” said Jamye Wooten, founder of CLLCTIVLY, an organization that supports Black-led organizations in the region.
In fact, the original idea for the campaign came in March 2021, when Wooten got in touch with a donor who wanted to cover the rent of a single mother.
Eventually, that donor’s generous offer transformed into the “We Got Your Back” Campaign, which focuses on providing a Black female entrepreneur with a total of $24,000 in funding over the course of a year, with $7,000 of that amount being provided by the donor. The award also comes with a free year-long membership to the Women’s Entrepreneur Leadership Lab, a network of Black women entrepreneurs and leaders.
This is the latest such campaign CLLCTIVLY has launched; since its conception in 2019, the organization has invested over $400,000 in no-strings-attached funding to Black-led organizations, Wooten said.
The “We Got Your Back” award’s inaugural recipient, Dominiece Clifton, has been an entrepreneur since December 2019; this month marks the two-year anniversary of her stepping away from her full-time job in fundraising to begin working in the wellness industry.
Her company, the Mobile Movement Studio, aims to bring yoga, dance and exercise classes to people throughout the Baltimore area — and eventually Washington and Virginia — through partnerships with local organizations and employers. The classes, all of which will be taught by instructors of color, also include education on stress-reduction strategies, such as breathing techniques.
Clifton has two central, long-term goals for her business: She wants to be able to provide jobs for other people of color in the wellness industry, and she hopes to provide movement classes to lower-income Baltimoreans who may not be able to access such classes otherwise.
There are a number of barriers low-income people face when trying to access fitness and wellness classes, she said, such as not having the necessary equipment or not being near a fitness center.
“When you think about low-income communities, you don’t see a lot of gyms and yoga studios,” she said.
The Mobile Movement Studio will alleviate those challenges by traveling to its clients and by providing equipment, such as yoga mats, to its students.
Clifton anticipates spending part of the “We Got Your Back” award money on business expenses for the Mobile Movement Studio, such as equipment, including yoga straps, blocks, mats and jump ropes, for classes. But she will also be putting some of the funds towards her mortgage — her husband is also an entrepreneur in the wellness space (he works as a personal trainer), and the pair, who have two children, have struggled with bills throughout the pandemic.
“I am advocating for folks to manage their stress, but, as I was building this business … it was causing a lot of stress,” she said. “When (I) know (my) security is OK, I can now stress less and focus on really building this business.”
Wooten said that this is part of the reason CLLCTIVLY gives out no-strings-attached funding; entrepreneurs are able to do better work when they’re not being bogged down by the financial stresses of paying for things like food, housing and child care.
Coming from a fundraising background herself, Clifton was especially surprised, and grateful, that she would have the freedom to use the funds as she wishes.
“It’s unheard of,” she said. “That’s a saving grace for me, as a new entrepreneur.”