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Six Pittsfield small-business owners land $4,000 grants designed to support economic equality

PITTSFIELD — Six local small-business owners received a $4,000 boost from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Leaders for an Equitable Pittsfield as part of a grant program aimed at supporting economic equality in the commonwealth’s smaller cities.

Awardees, representatives from the Boston Federal Reserve Bank and Leaders for an Equitable Pittsfield gathered last week at the Berkshire Black Economic Council to celebrate the work of the local BIPOC-owned businesses. The grants were a part of the bank's Leaders for Equitable Local Economies Grant Program, or LELE.

Maria Arias, head of the Maggie Sadoway Immigrant Cooperative, spent much of the pandemic working with the cooperative’s 28 families to sew face masks for the community. She plans to use the grant funds to expand the cooperative’s effort to make comforters and pillows that will be sold to support the cooperative’s families.

Miriam Orengo, one of the co-creators of La Cocineras Latinas, plans to use the grant money to purchase appliances for a food trailer. The appliances will help her meet one of the final requirements in opening a Health Department certified business. Orengo plans to open the trailer, Gustitos Boricuas, this spring.

Jocelyn Guelce founded Guelce Collaborative Marketing to be “a guiding light” to Berkshire County-based small businesses. The grant funds Guelce received will be put toward purchasing professional subscription, marketing and advertising and equipment to launch the collaborative’s GROWTH project.

Ludwig Jean-Louis purchased Elm Street’s Cravins Soft Serve and Frozen Yogurt to follow his entrepreneurial dreams. He ran the business alongside his siblings and cousins through the last summer season. With the new grant money, Jean-Louis plans to repair the Cravins storefront, update some equipment and cover the cost of new marketing and advertising.

Inspired by her time working at Miraval, Ranisha Grice launched her own line of spa products focused on bringing self-care to the Black community. She plans to reinvest her grant into an expanded inventory and new equipment for her business Grice Beauty.

For the past 12 years, Goundo Behanzin has owned and operated Berkshire International Market as a landing space for staples from across the globe. The new grant will help him withstand the increasing cost of ordering these hard-to-find products and allow the store to increase its storage capacity. Behanzin’s application notes that he plans to expand the catalog with additional Indian and Chinese products.

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