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ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 15: St. Louis mayor Tishaura Jones talks with reporters during the press conference hosted by World Wide Technology Raceway announcing the date of their NASCAR Cup Series Race for the 2022 season on September 15, 2021, at Bally Sports Live in Ballpark Village in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
St. Louis mayor, Tishaura JonesPhoto by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Mastercard is expanding its investment in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, with a new program focused on helping small businesses.
  • It's an extension and refinement of the company's "In Solidarity" program, which committed $500 million to support Black communities across the country. 
  • This article is part of the "Financing a Sustainable Future" series exploring how companies take steps to set and fund sustainable goals.

A $500 million program that was launched to fund improvements to Black communities across the US is extending its remit to help small businesses go digital, and grow. 

Mastercard last month rolled out Digital Doors STL in St. Louis, Missouri, in partnership with the St. Louis Development Corporation. At the program's core is a dedicated, locally-focused online platform that provides tools and content to help small business owners transition to, or improve, their ecommerce offerings and digital profile. 

Mastercard recognized the importance of helping small businesses bridge the digital gap as so many companies were devastated by the global pandemic, when they did not have the means to compete online. "When COVID hit, of the 30 million small businesses in the US, roughly 10 million of them did not have a digital or online presence," said Ginger Siegel, North America small business lead. 

A higher percentage of Black-owned businesses faced this challenge, and subsequently went out of business when they could not compete with customer demands for online services and information. 

St. Louis is one of seven cities Mastercard pledged to support back in September 2020 with a program called "In Solidarity." It was one of many big commitments made by corporations in the wake of George Floyd's murder, when the country began a process of reckoning over systemic inequities for Black Americans.  The other cities included were Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; Dayton, OH; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; and New York City, NY. 

Along with the announcement, Mastercard, along with the Fearless Fund's Strivers Grant Contest, awarded a $10,000 grant to Jehasheba "Hoba" Smith, CEO and creative director of Floral Play, a St. Louis small business. 

Evolution of a community program

This move to support small businesses in those seven cities represents an evolution of the original program, based on where the company believes it can have maximum impact on the communities it serves.

"It's the natural progression of our stance on inclusion," said Salah Goss, head of social impact, North America Center for Inclusive Growth at Mastercard. "We are focusing on small businesses because they are the engines of economies and wealth creation."

Goss said that its focus came through a process of looking at the assets that the company as a whole could bring to these communities. "We took a hard look at our assets and where it made sense to be involved. Small business was something that we had in place and we could build on."

The "In Solidarity" program continues to evolve. Goss said that it has rolled out financial literacy curriculum to HBCU students in each of the seven cities it serves, as well as programs that help individuals dealing with economic shocks such as unemployment or illness.

Goss also said they are looking to work closely with the mayors in each of the seven cities to help them with their economic agendas — and with their goals to combat ongoing inequities.

Tishuara Jones, mayor of St. Louis, recently unveiled her own ambitious plans to develop North St. Louis, which she cited in her statement about the Digital Doors STL program.

"Equitable development happens alongside the community, not to the community," Jones said. "Economic empowerment is key to my $150 million commitment to begin reversing decades of disinvestment in North St. Louis, and I appreciate SLDC and Mastercard coming together to get St. Louis small businesses the tools they need to grow and bring good jobs to our neighborhoods."


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