February 22, 2021
The Boston Celtics have a storied history when it comes to social change, from drafting the NBA's first African American player in Chuck Cooper in 1950 to debuting the first all-Black starting five in 1964, and more recently to backing guard Jaylen Brown's protest against police killings of unarmed Black Americans in Atlanta. Now, the organization says it is working with an e-commerce marketing firm to give local Black-owned small businesses a boost.
The Celtics and Vistaprint have partnered on the #PowerForward campaign that sets out to provide these businesses in the Boston area with $25,000 grants. For Rich Gotham, Boston Celtics team president, the initiative is about leveling the playing field.
"Our research has shown us that really one of four Black-owned small businesses actually have a lending or borrowing relationship with a bank, that getting financing is less available, and it's more expensive for them, so we think those are problems we can help with," he told Cheddar.
For Vistaprint North America President Emily Whitaker, the aim here is not only to provide monetary support for these businesses but to also establish a working relationship giving them more visibility. She said the company is willing to help in areas that entrepreneurs might not have easy access to and can customize programs based on the needs of the businesses.
"Not only are we extending a meaningful grant of $25,000 but we go beyond that to give personalized assistance to the recipients," Whitaker noted. "That could be in the form of marketing expertise, which we'll bring to the table, or it could be access to our shared platforms that the Celtics have, whether that be through media or through design services or branding expertise that Vistaprint has."
The Boston branch of the NAACP will also work with the team to allocate funds, and Celtics United, a joint venture between Celtics investors and the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation, will continue "research into some of the systemic issues" Black-owned businesses face to better equip them with tools to succeed.
"We are looking for programs that are sustained, and I think with small businesses, in particular, they need injection of fuel to get to growth in scale," Gotham added. "I think if we can help get them to scale. We can make a long-term difference."