BALTIMORE (WJZ) – The Downtown Partnership’s BOOST (Black-Owned and Occupied Storefront Tenancy) Program is accepting applications through March 10 for grants of up to $50,000.

The grant program’s main sponsor, Fearless, is a Baltimore digital services company headquartered at Power Plant Live.

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“How do we help them avoid the pitfalls we went through and really accelerate some of their growth?” Fearless CEO Delali Dzirasa said. “It sends a signal to the city that Baltimore is serious about equity.”

The Baltimore Development Corporation estimates about 10 percent of Baltimore businesses with employees are black-owned, accounting for about four percent of total revenue.

“Our hope is that these companies will grow, they will thrive, they will be great corporate citizens and really impact the community,” Dzirasa said. “The hustle is there, right? What we might not have is the traditional ‘This is how you structure a business. This is how you run a business. How do you build capacity in the business itself?’”

Dzirasa’s business was a 2016 recipient of a TECHCONNECT grant. He said it was a major reason Fearless chose Baltimore for its headquarters.

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He has helped or is helping at least 16 startup businesses in a “Hutch” incubator, including former Fearless employee Aaron Brooks. Brooks is the CEO of MASTERMND, a digital engineering pipeline business.

“Knowledge is the currency of the world now. The more you know, the more you can do,” Brooks said. “You don’t know what you don’t know and it’s hard to also know what you haven’t been exposed to.”

The BOOST program will select five businesses in April. Its overview lists nine vacant retail spaces downtown on Calvert, Howard, and Charles Streets.

To learn more about the BOOST program, click here.

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Paul Gessler