Bi-Poc Locally Owned Businesses

NORTHEAST KINGDOM-The Black Lives Matter movement has inspired a fairly new organization to reach out to businesses across the northeast kingdom.

 Nathaniel Houser, the founder of AlliedVT, was scrolling through facebook and saw a lot of his white friends commenting on the Black Lives Matter movement spreading across the country, as well as the world.

"I got really angry, I got really frustrated and I just started realizing that I have some skill sets that I can help out as far as what I've been calling not the black lives matter movement but kind of the bi-poc liberation movement," Houser explained.

Houser then wanted to gather up some people for what he calls "the unified voice theory," he did not want to tackle the idea alone. He started surfing through the web and found that there is a lack of digital presents for businesses in the Northeast Kingdom.

"So I started thinking you know, well I build websites for a living, and I fix computers for a living, you know, I can network and do social media, etc. So I started thinking, ''how can we really lift up bi-poc voices, and community members and residents of Vermont?" Houser goes on to say.

That was the beginning for AlliedVT, within four months of the organization being public they have accomplished many things within such a short span of time. Houser explains that they have broken up their focus into four main categories, business, community, education, and policy. The goal is that AlliedVT is looking to be a connecting service for each category.

"We are basically going to target individuals, entities, businesses, community leaders, and organizations in order to connect, network, provide digital services, provide resources," Houser says.

Along with the team's ambitions and goals, Houser says that AlliedVT has already begun to work with community establishments throughout the Northeast Kingdom. Such as Northeast Kingdom Asylum Seekers Assistance Network, Vermont Community Foundation, Northeast Kingdom Collaborative, Advancing Racial Equity, Safe Spaces for Bi-Poc, Hardwick Community Allies, Racial Equity Alliance for Lamoille.

"There's a good list that we are starting to work with but the goal is to work with everybody," Houser explains.

The big project in the making for AlliedVT is the bi-poc grants they are working on to give to minority owned businesses in the Northeast Kingdom. They have teamed up with Northeast Kingdom Collaborative, the Northern Forest Center, and FlippedVT that Houser co-owns to be able to achieve the handling of these grants.

"So up to eight businesses through this grant will get basically like ten hours of web development, social media development. Pretty much get set up so to speak, so if they don't have a website or anything we will get them there, or if they do have a website and they want edits or alterations or redesign, we got them covered," Houser goes on to say.

Diane Willson who owns Medicine Wheel Well Being says she is very happy to get the opportunity to work with Nathaniel. She hopes that with this grant to offer web design to her business, Nathaniel will help to guide and educate her when it comes to social media.

AlliedVT has already collaborated with locally owned Bi-Poc business owners in the state of Vermont, like Pica Pica in downtown St. Johnsbury, the Flaky Crust in Newport Vermont, Medicine Wheel Well Being in Lyndonville. In addition to the Eight businesses receiving the grants, Houser has made the investment out of his own pocket with FlippedVT to help out five other businesses with their web development.

"On the other hand I noticed that in talks with finalizing this grant with our funder that it was only targeting bi-poc Business owners, or fifty one percent owned or more bi-poc businesses in the NEK, so that limits people with an LLC basically. I was doing outreach for AlliedVT with a lot of people and there's a lot of organizations that are never going to get an LLC, or a lot of entities that are just a non business model that just will never have an LLC. I said well that's kind of a bummer this grant does not really apply to them and I still want to help out," Houser explains.

Each business will be receiving one thousand one hundred seventy six dollars in funding for their online web designs. In order to apply for these marketing grants you must be a Vermont-registered LLC located in Caledonia, Essex, or Orleans Counties. Additionally, all applicants must have 51% or more BI-POC ownership.

All applicants need to do is fill out a very short intake form to be considered for this opportunity. The Northern Forest Center will be in touch after anyone fills out this application, please do not hesitate to contact Allied Vermont with any questions you may have. To apply you may go to Allied Vermont's web page, there are still slots open. For businesses receiving the grant, all work will be completed by November 30th, 2020.