“In the best of all worlds, we could buy local at competitive prices, growing jobs and the local economy.”— PB
Sometimes we need a little help from our friends. It’s a simple idea that inspired the creation in 1854 of the Merchants Fund, which was there to step in and help Philadelphia businesses when sickness, fire or other calamity struck at the heart of a shop’s viability.
When the financial crisis hit in 2008, the fund repurposed its mission to reflect the need for small business to have access to free capital, and they put Patricia Blakely at the helm. Blakely helps distribute the fund’s grants, up to $10,000 per business, that either help stabilize an existing businesses or make an investment that helps it get to the next level of growth.
“I take great pride that our portfolio of companies looks like the city we serve and covers a wide geography,” Blakely says. “We have formed partnerships in diverse communities from Chinatown to far Woodland Avenue, where new Americans dominate the storefront businesses.”
Small businesses are responsible for the bulk of jobs in Philadelphia, and one or two more thriving businesses can help make or break a burgeoning commercial corridor or provide crucial goods and services to an underserved neighborhood. “In 2009, the Commerce Department of Philadelphia asked us to through-grant one million dollars,” says Blakely. “We were able to make macro grants up to $50,000 each, which went toward creating jobs and robust companies such as Mariposa Co-op on Baltimore Avenue, which has remediated a food desert.”
Her vision for Philadelphia includes the Merchants Fund continuing to make business owners’ dreams come true well into the next century. “One grant at a time.” she says. “We are in it for the next 160 years.”
The Merchants Fund
The Merchants Fund was established to give charitable gifts to businesses facing financial hardship. It continues to award grants today to Philadelphia businesses in order to create and retain jobs, nurture companies that take leadership roles and empower referring partners to realize their goals.
1854 - The year the Merchants fund was established. At the time, no public assistance programs existed to help business owners who suffered hardships
324 - Approximate total grants awarded to local small businesses since 2007
$3.2 million - The total sum of money distributed to Philadelphia businesses
To find out about grant oportunities for your