“Be A Neighbor Fund”;  A local initiative designed by small business owners, directly for small business owners.

It’s no secret that small businesses are hurting. Several small business owners came together and asked, “how can we help?”, and one meeting of the minds later, the Be A Neighbor Fund was born. Developed by four area companies, Universal Bookkeeper, Made In Utica, McGrogan Design and thINCubator, the mission of the Be A Neighbor Fund is to raise funds to help out small, locally-owned businesses in the Greater Utica area who have had their revenue compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses in the Greater Utica area bring unique products and services to our community and represent critical pieces of our diverse micro economy. By supporting these businesses with a three-month financial boost, the founders of the Be A Neighbor Fund hope to help them outlast the restrictions and operational hardships brought on by the pandemic.

The fund, designed by small businesses, directly for small businesses, has an initial goal of raising $45,000 to help out five small businesses. “The idea isn’t to have a one-shot donation to a business,” said Justin Miller, owner of Universal Bookkeeper. “I kept thinking, how can we help businesses in a way that would make an impact. So, the idea is they will receive up to $3,000 for three months. This allows a business to really have some breathing room and have some reliable income for whatever they need to stay open and thrive again.”

For businesses, the application process is short and simple, and any business in the Greater Utica Area can apply. Community members can also nominate a business. “We created a really easy process on our website for the applications and nominations,” said Justin Parkinson of Made In Utica. “We’d love to hear from business owners, but we also want to hear from the community. We want you to think about what businesses you love, what businesses would you truly miss if they were gone?” Made In Utica partner Katie Reilly continued, “So many small businesses are struggling due to the pandemic, and we have to do everything we can to keep them around. We need the community to tell us what business you can’t live without, and help make sure they stick around.”

The team behind the Be A Neighbor Fund is hoping to continue the fund even after the initial goal is reached. “The purpose of our business has always been to help as many small businesses as possible, so it was a no brainer to come together and collaborate with these talented partners and make that happen,” said Ryan McGrogan, owner of McGrogan Design.

“The more money raised, the more businesses will be helped. No donation is too small, or too big. We’d encourage anyone from individuals in the community to other businesses to be a ‘good neighbor’ and donate toward the fund” said Meghan Fraser McGrogan of McGrogan Design.

Donations will be processed through Handshake.City, a community-based non-profit organization under management of Made In Utica.

So, what would you do for a neighbor? Help us give our neighborhood businesses access to funding and support, which are so important to their survival. More information about the fund including applications, nominations and donation forms for the Be A Neighbor Fund are available now at www.handshake.city.

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