A note from our editor, Elizabeth MacBride:

It can be a bit dangerous to have a pastor for a dad. Deon Lacey’s father is one. On a trip to Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, where the family was originally from, the elder Lacey showed his son a restaurant for sale. It was a nondescript building a mile down from the stoplight that doesn’t work.

“Why are you showing me this restaurant?” Lacey asked his dad. But it was clear. Lacey, who was then a cook in a restaurant in Brooklyn, needed a challenge.
He signed up. “I was led here,” he said, taking a fast break from his 7-day-a-week position behind the grill and fryer. Burgers, fried okra, grits and strawberry cake with a layer of cheesecake are on the menu.

He bought the restaurant in 2018. On summer-time trips, he had seen the community slip badly, a historic home of blues in the middle of the Delta’s rich farmland, brought low. The population of Helena-West Helena is now less than 10,000. The median household income is $22,000. This did not deter him. He wanted to create a restaurant that would be a gathering place for everyone. He opened with a senior night and a kids night, and a special program for high school students who needed part-time work. His big heart soon matched his payroll: He had 19 people on staff.

The former owner gave him a talking to. Get your payroll under control. Get your food costs down. By 2019, things were turning. Sales were at $1,000 a day, and by working seven days a week himself, he was paying his bills. Then came the pandemic. He stayed open, added curbside, fought off a 20% dip in sales and now is bringing in $1,400 a day, he said. The pandemic, paradoxically, has helped both missions, owning a restaurant and serving as a gathering place. Because he’s almost the only place open anymore. The Pizza Hut just closed. A couple of locally owned Mexican places, and one diner, Rosie’s, are doing carryout.

A misguided idea in the new aid package for small businesses is that to be eligible, small businesses need to show a 25% decline in revenue due to the pandemic. That emphasis means people like Lacey might not be able to access the new infusion of aid. That mistake grows out of misperception and a lack of respect. Small business owners like Lacey are not victims that need to be helped, but the key, probably the only key, to future economic growth.

A tweet from Janet Yellen last week suggested she gets this, when she wrote about investing in small businesses, not those that are hard hit, but that “serve the hardest-hit communities.” That’s Lacey. Next up, he says, gesturing at a vacant lot next door: “I want to start a program for youth. Maybe basketball.”

Times of Entrepreneurship Stories of the week

The Great, Predictable Vaccine Distribution Logjam

Amid a slow rollout, Dr. Anthony Fauci says the U.S. government will relax “rigid” rules about who gets the vaccine, when. He was speaking at a Schmidt Futures forum.

Read the Story »

Apollo Agriculture’s Growth Is A Sign Of AgTech Resilience

Advice from a top impact startup with a $6M funding round in its bank account: “If you’re tackling an unconventional challenge, do it unconventionally.”

Read the Story »

No More “Diversity Theater”

New class of LatinX venture capitalists launches funds. They may be a way around the obstacles blocking entrepreneurial immigrants from raising capital. 

Read the Story »

Is Vaccine Trust Possible? Communicators Seek To Overcome History And Obvious Inequities

There’s no doubt that trust in institutions distributing the vaccine is frayed. Leaders are turning to grassroots approaches to counter misinformation. 

Read the Story »

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Side Hustle Stack: A Directory Of Gig Platforms And Marketplaces
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Resources of the week: The Business Case For Remote Work


Annual Ballard Award Competition
Deadline: Applications will be available starting in January 2021; other details forthcoming.
Location: Details forthcoming
Information available here.

Emerging companies in the East Tennessee area can compete for a $50,000 investment of capital and in-kind services to support their innovative ideas in this contest, sponsored by the accounting firm PYA. Applicants must submit a business plan.

Paycheck Protection Program 2.0: Accessing Funds/Changes to the Program
Date: January 7, 9 am ET
Information available here

Learn about changes to the Paycheck Protection Program ushered in by the second-round stimulus package, how you can access an apply for funding and what new regulations and paperwork you need to prepare.

Kauffman FastTrac
Date: Starts January 11
Information available here.

This program, run by the Women’s Business Center of South Carolina at Columbia College, will equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the business skills and insights, tools, resources, and peer networks necessary to start and grow successful businesses.

Real Change Opportunity Fund and Ideas Pitch Competition
Deadline: January 15 for first round
Location: Virtual
Information available here.

MTN DEW has partnered with Howard University, Hampton University and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities on this program, which will award $1 million in prizes annually over five years

Jim Collins – Beyond Entrepreneurship In Conversation With Andrew Hill
Date: January 18, 1:30 pm
Location: Virtual
Information available here

In this discussion with Financial Times editor Andrew Hill, Jim Collins will build upon the insights in his seminal classic Beyond Entrepreneurship.

Ag Entrepreneur
Date: First session is January 19, 2021
Information available here.

The N.C. Cooperative Extension—run by NC State University and N.C. A&T State University—in Caswell County, N.C. is offering this free program for agriculture entrepreneurs. Topics include identifying the strengths of your farm and envisioning your farm business, reaching your goals and business planning and resources.

Entrepreneurship Is The New Women’s Movement
Date: January 25, 2021
Location: Virtual
Information available here

Women have been hit very hard by the pandemic. This panel is designed to help women launch businesses they can run from home.

Invest NY: Health & Wellbeing
Date: January 28
Information available here

Apply to pitch at this startup showcase, run by NYSTAR and Upstate Capital, for up to 20 companies, which will each give a 2-3 minute pre-recorded video introduction. The competition is aimed at tech-enabled startups that have raised some outside capital.

Rice Business Plan Competition
Deadline: February 2, 2021
Information available here

This competition, marking its 20th year, takes place April 5-9. Graduate-level student startups can compete for more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes.

Startup 302
Deadline: February 12, 2021
Information available here

More than $200,000 grant-based and in-kind prizes are being awarded in this competition, targeting startups with at least one member of the founding team from underrepresented groups. The goal is to address the lack of funding that goes to startups led by women and minorities.

Ignite Startup Workshop: Design Thinking for Entrepreneurs
Date: February 16, 2020
Information available here.

The Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Austin and special guest Raj Raghunathan, professor of marketing at the McCombs School of Business, are offering this free workshop on design thinking for entrepreneurs.

7th Annual Booth-Kellogg Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition Conference
Date: Feb. 16-19, 2021
Location: Virtual
Information available here

The Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition Group at Chicago Booth, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Kellogg Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative are hosting this annual event bringing together entrepreneurs, investors, MBA students, faculty and others to network and share insights.

Values and Ventures Competition
Deadline: February 22, 2021
Information available here.

Texas Christian University’s Values and Ventures Competition, which takes place from April 16-17, invites undergraduates from around the world to pitch ideas for conscious capitalism ventures that make a profit while solving a problem. The grand prize is $100,000.

Baylor New Venture Competition
Date: March 25-27, 2021; Applications open September 1, 2020
Location: Baylor University; Waco, Texas
Information available here.

Baylor New Venture Competition offers applicants business plan feedback, mentorship, and a chance to compete for more than $250,000 in prizes. Collegiate entrepreneurs from around the globe are eligible to participate in the competition, hosted by Baylor University.

US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency Cares Act Grant Technical Assistance Program
End date: May 31, 2021
Information available here.

This program, facilitated through eight COVID-19 Technical Assistance Centers in major cities with large Hispanic and minority populations, will provide ongoing readiness and support to help the minority business community navigate the pandemic.


MassCEC’s InnovateMass Program
Deadline: Rolling
Information available here.

This program offers up to $250,000 in grant funding and technical support to applicant teams deploying new clean energy technologies or innovative combinations of existing technologies with a strong potential for commercialization. Applicants must run Massachusetts-based companies or have a location in the state and have a technology that fits specific guidelines.

Chandler Innovations
Deadline: Rolling
Location: Chandler, Arizona
Information available here.

Entrepreneurs who live or work in Chandler, Arizona, are eligible to apply for this business incubator. Business ideas must be tech-based.

This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.

A business journalist for 20 years, am the founder of Times of Entrepreneurship and the co-author of The New Builders.