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Second Round of ASCEND Grants Announced

The Downtown Springfield Association and U.S. Bank announced the second round of recipients for ASCEND, a program aimed at increasing small business creation and growth among BIPOC business owners in downtown Springfield, Missouri. ASCEND, which stands for Advancing Springfield’s Commitment to Entrepreneurship, Networking & Diversity is led by the Downtown Springfield Association and U.S. Bank in partnership with the Multicultural Business Association, efactory, and Missouri Small Business Development Center at MSU.

Each business was presented with a $5,000 grant during a ceremony at the efactory. Business owners will also receive no-cost business consulting through the Missouri SBDC at MSU to assist with business planning, one year complimentary membership to the Downtown Springfield Association, one year complimentary membership to the Multicultural Business Association, and efactory offerings including office hoursmentorship, and day passes.

The five grant recipients are The Riksha, Snail Art House, The Cut, Lashes by Aja, and Crystal Campbell.

The Riksha is owned by Sakiko Kong and has been a staple of downtown Springfield for three decades. Sakiko purchased the business from his aunt and uncle last year and plans to use the grant funds to update furniture, fixtures, and equipment. The restaurant recently began processing debit and credit card payments, allowing them to significantly grow their customer base.

Snail Art House was created by Chloe Thome.  Thome wanted to provide a collaborative creation space for artists who may not otherwise have access to a studio, retail space, and the opportunity to work with other artists. Snail Art House will utilize the grant funding to purchase a four-color screen-printing machine, photography backdrop, shared supplies, and more.

The Cut is owned by Charlten Henderson, who has been a licensed barber for four years and also holds a Master’s in Counseling from Missouri State University. Henderson aims to connect barbering and his counseling background in a way that creates a safe, nonjudgmental space for men in the black community.  He plans to use the ASCEND funds to learn new services, such as cranial prosthesis and how to rid males of Keloidalis Nuchae.

Lashes by Aja is owned by Aja Starks.  Starks started her business because she enjoys making a difference in people’s lives and helping others increase their self-confidence. Starks plans to use the grant funds to purchase lash beds and other supplies with the long-term goal of purchasing a building for her business.

Crystal Campbell plans to use the ASCEND grant funds to bring a new sneaker and apparel store to Springfield. A native of Chicago, she and her children have noted a shortage of exclusive sneakers and apparel in Springfield, causing many to travel to other cities to find exclusive apparel. The ASCEND grant will allow her to put her plans into motion and jumpstart her venture.