ConnCORP Receives $1M in Grant From KeyBank Foundation, Deepens Investment in Entrepreneurial Support

Feb 1, 2023 9:00 AM ET
KeyBank and CONNCorp with Grant check.

NEW HAVEN, Conn., February 1, 2023 /3BL Media/ – KeyBank announced ConnCORP as the recipient of a $1 million grant from KeyBank Foundation to support the ongoing work of the ConnCORP Lab and its entrepreneurial support ecosystem. The grant, which will be dispersed in $200,000 increments over the next five years, is slated to address the ongoing entrepreneurial challenges facing the Newhallville/Dixwell neighborhood.

As it stands, the present ecosystem within the Newhallville/Dixwell neighborhood falls short of fully encouraging or supporting the formation and sustainability of local minority-owned businesses and minority entrepreneurs.  Those minority-owned businesses that have formed remain small in size and scale, and most have no employees. Among all New England states, Connecticut is home, on average, to fewer and smaller minority-owned businesses.

“We’ve created something truly special with the ConnCORP Lab and are interested in partnering with community operators and organizations to bolster our efforts to give Black entrepreneurs and early-stage companies a chance to succeed,” said Aya Beckles Swanson, Executive Director of the ConnCORP Lab. “This is just one piece of the larger picture to siphon much-needed support into our community of business owners who have a much steeper hill to climb to success. With this investment in our work, we hope to bridge the gap between the initial idea to business success.”

KeyBank’s grant to ConnCORP is made under Key’s National Community Benefits Plan, which has already delivered more than $29 billion in lending and investments across Key’s national footprint supporting affordable housing and community development projects, home, and small business lending in low- and-moderate income communities, and philanthropic efforts targeted toward education, workforce development, and safe, vital neighborhoods.

“ConnCORP is bringing innovative solutions to the challenges faced by minority-owned businesses in the community,” said Elizabeth Gurney, Executive Director, KeyBank Foundation. “Helping locally-owned businesses grow, employ more people, and support the economic health of the Newhallville/Dixwell neighborhood is critical to building and sustaining a thriving community.”

Over the next five years, KeyBank’s funding will help the Lab hire a program director as well as scale program offerings for the local business community. In addition to regular entrepreneurial workshops and training, offerings will include the Launch Pad at the Lab speaker series, a quarterly investment roundtable for women of color designed to overcome the intimidation many feel about investing in capital markets, monthly opportunities for Lab tenants to network with other Greater New Haven area business owners, increased coworking membership and overall support of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Key’s investment will also support the ConnCORP and Quinnipiac Community Entrepreneurship Academy – a 12-week entrepreneurial clinic taught by QU professors and business students and culminating in a pitch competition and up to $5​​,500 in seed money from the SBA for each participant who makes it through the course.

“The Lab’s efforts to bring entrepreneurial resources and financial literacy training to underserved minority business owners and entrepreneurs is critical to New Haven’s economic health and growth, and aligns directly with KeyBank’s business and community objectives,” said Matthew Hummel, KeyBank’s Market President and Commercial Sales Leader for Connecticut and Massachusetts. “We are inspired by ConnCORP’s mission to drive economic development in the Newhallville/Dixwell community and are proud to expand our partnership with them.”  

Through its work, which includes the acquisition and revitalization of commercial properties as well as investment in new and existing local community-based businesses, ConnCORP seeks to attract businesses to New Haven and, ultimately, to catalyze and support a place-based impact investing ecosystem in the city.

“The importance of Black-owned businesses in our communities cannot be overstated,” said Erik Clemons, ConnCORP & ConnCAT CEO. “For more than a decade we’ve built a legacy on the strategy of giving community members the tools they need to determine success as they deem fit. Our next steps with this investment are to continue the work we’ve started and broaden our reach to support a wider ecosystem of entrepreneurs.”

ConnCORP maintains that the business and entrepreneurial ecosystems must play a significant role in helping to transform the Dixwell/Newhallville neighborhood. The Lab is an immersive and transformative space for innovation, creativity, entrepreneurial education, and a community space to learn and exchange ideas about business ownership. The Lab offers a place where financial and business skills are learned, best practices conveyed, and where logistical support can be accessed. Most importantly, The Lab offers a place where aspiring entrepreneurs can connect with like-minded peers and trade support and encouragement.

About ConnCORP
Our Mission: To drive economic development and economic justice in impoverished communities by investing in local commercial and residential real estate, and minority-owned businesses.

Our key activities include the acquisition and revitalization of commercial properties as well as investment in new and existing local community-based businesses. ConnCORP also seeks to attract businesses to New Haven and, ultimately, to catalyze and support a place-based impact investing ecosystem in the city.

About KeyBank Foundation:
KeyBank Foundation serves to fulfill KeyBank’s purpose to help clients and communities thrive, and its mission is to support organizations and programs that prepare people for thriving futures.  The Foundation’s mission is advanced through three funding priorities – neighbors, education, and workforce – and through community service. To provide meaningful philanthropy that transforms lives, KeyBank Foundation listens carefully to understand the unique characteristics and needs of its communities and then backs solutions with targeted philanthropic investments. KeyBank Foundation is a nonprofit charitable foundation, funded by KeyCorp.

 About KeyBank/KeyCorp:
KeyCorp's roots trace back nearly 200 years to Albany, New York. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Key is one of the nation's largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $189.8 billion at December 31, 2022. Key provides deposit, lending, cash management, and investment services to individuals and businesses in 15 states under the name KeyBank National Association through a network of approximately 1,000 branches and approximately 1,300 ATMs. Key also provides a broad range of sophisticated corporate and investment banking products, such as merger and acquisition advice, public and private debt and equity, syndications and derivatives to middle market companies in selected industries throughout the United States under the KeyBanc Capital Markets trade name. For more information, visit KeyBank is Member FDIC.