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Entrepreneurs find support in statewide E3 network

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Books and Bagels Ellen Cappard E3 Wilmington PDFF entrepreneurs

Ellen Cappard, owner of Books and Bagels in Wilmington, said she has learned a lot through the E3 program for entrepreneurs. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BOOKS & BAGELS

A professional network for entrepreneurs has received another grant that will support 20 minority-owned businesses statewide.

Those businesses — 10 in New Castle County and five each in Kent and Sussex counties — join dozens of others who have already benefited from the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, known as E3. Of the $100,000 grant recently given to the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation by Wilmington-based Barclays US Consumer Bank, $60,000 will go directly to the E3 program.

“Many entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds lack access to capital and technical resources needed to start, maintain and grow their businesses,” Barclays’ Jenn Cho said in a statement. “Barclays is committed to sparking opportunities in our communities by helping entrepreneurs to connect, innovate and scale, allowing them to build wealth across generations.”

The E3 program was initially launched in partnership with Wilmington Alliance in 2020 as a way to help small businesses sustain and grow during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly businesses under Black and Brown ownership that were much harder hit during the height of the pandemic. Now the initiative has pivoted to focus on growth of these businesses, PDFF Executive Director Stephanie Johnnie said.

It’s also expanded beyond Wilmington, with an active presence in all three counties, overseen by separate county-based councils represented by partners such as the Wilmington Alliance, the Greater Kent Committee and La Esperanza. While the majority of E3 businesses are still located in northern Delaware, a high demand from applicants statewide spurred the development last spring of a new membership program, Johnnie said.

Stephanie Johnnie PDFF E3

Stephanie Johnnie | PHOTO COURTESY OF PDFF

“Membership comes with an array of benefits,” she said, noting that it includes help with marketing, strategic coaching and access to local mentors such as Carvertise CEO and founder Mac Macleod. “It’s a dynamic program.”

To date, the program has supported and invested in an additional 60-plus businesses statewide from biosciences to entertainment to retail to food and beverage, Johnnie said. About 73% are owned by people of color and 53% are owned by women.

For Wilmington-based Books & Bagels owner Ellen Cappard, the program has given her the tools needed to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of her business, which is a community-based effort that includes a lot of collaboration with local partners.

“The E3 program was a phenomenal opportunity as a new owner to really see how the business is doing, to identify parts I’m doing well and identify parts I need to focus on in order to grow,” Cappard said. “The resources are really impactful.”

She is one of six Wilmington entrepreneurs out of the group of 20 businesses receiving new funding who also will benefit from additional technical assistance and support such as marketing, technology and financial literacy.

“Entrepreneurship can feel like a silo,” she said. “Having a network of other entrepreneurs you can connect with and have something in common with is really great.”

Business owners interested in participating in the E3 program, which will be accepting new applicants starting April 24, a virtual informational session is scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19. To learn more about the E3 membership program, go to petedupontfreedomfoundation.org/e3membership.

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