Business Equity Initiative

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Launched by the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation in April 2017, the Business Equity Initiative (BEI) was developed to mitigate growing inequality by combining business growth, supplier partnerships, and community transformative development as a means of addressing growing wealth and income inequality in Massachusetts. Ardent was chosen to be a part of the BEI Cohort IV, along with these other fantastic Boston-based enterprises and CEOs:

The Initiative is focused on accelerating the growth of successful enterprises of color by leveraging Eastern’s networks and philanthropic dollars as well as providing targeted, customizable growth tools including embedded trusted strategic advisors, operational support, growth capital, and market access to enterprises of color positioned for growth. This Initiative began with Black and Latino businesses because research shows us that this is where the inequities and wealth gap are the greatest.

The envisioned impact of the BEI includes stronger balance sheets, expanded and deeper supplier relationships between these enterprises and anchor institutions, job creation for residents of color, and the potential for greater civic engagement by the owners of color and their workforce.

Shanel Lindsay, Founder & CEO of Ardent with Bob Rivers, CEO of Eastern Bank

The BEI will match top tier talent (former CEOs, successful former business owners, management consultants, strategists) and expertise to our entrepreneurs and enterprises of color to help them grow. The process begins with embedding these trusted strategic advisors within the leadership team. The Strategic Advisors will perform a full organizational diagnostic and co-create effective growth strategies, and then partner directly with the founding team to help execute/operationalize the strategy. (80% subsidized by BEI). BEI estimates the market value of having up to 420 hours of strategic coaching advice, and execution assistance to be worth $125K. They ask the enterprise of color to contribute up to 10-15% of that value.

Ardent with BEI Advisors Dwight Garland, Victoria Nesson and Linda Stewart

It is anticipated that Initiative participants will have gaps in infrastructure or operational capability that can be bridged with the help of a specialist. Examples include: financial data collection, reporting and analysis, resilient legal structure, branding, leadership development, market research as well as process and flow improvements. The Strategic Advisor along with the leadership team will identify these gaps and the enterprise of color will directly contract with the direct service specialist. The enterprise of color will directly contract with the service provider. Depending on the enterprise need, we estimate subsidizing each company 20% of the direct service support or on average $30K. We will expect the enterprise to pay the other 80% for the services they receive.

Eastern Bank has committed $10MM over the next three years to support the growth of enterprises of color in the Business Equity Initiative (BEI). BEI is committing a substantial part of this resource into a growth capital vehicle that will provide flexible capital to enterprises of color positioned for growth and expansion. For most small businesses, especially owners of color, access to appropriate growth capital and strategic resources and partnerships is a challenge.

The Business Equity Fund will be part of a holistic and comprehensive approach to support the growth of the enterprises of color accepted into the BEI cohort. The Business Equity Fund will provide integrated capital ranging from debt to equity, all provided as potential investment tools toward growth.

It is encouraging to see other legacy Massachusetts institutions stepping up to support this effort. It was announced at the start of Cohort IV that Berkshire Bank has pledged millions of dollars in resources and funds to secure the program’s future. We are so excited to see Berkshire’s commitment to the program and their broader commitment to banking equity through their support of the Business Equity Initiative and their hire of long-time activist and community leader Malia Lazu as their Chief Experience and Culture Officer.

Shanel and Berkshire Bank's Chief Experience and Culture Officer Malia Lazu

The Business Equity Initiative is partnering with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce to significantly expand corporate procurement opportunities for enterprises of color. Eastern Bank will be one of the inaugural members of the Pacesetter group and has already committed to doubling its spend by the end of 2018. The initial objective is to increase the opportunities available for bidding by the BEI participants and for opportunities that fit within the strategic growth plans of the BEI participants.

Thanks to your continued support and encouragement, Ardent is the first cannabis company to be accepted to the BEI. This will help us grow and serve you better, and we couldn’t be more excited for this new adventure. Check back throughout the year as we provide updates on this process!

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