BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In some parts of Baltimore, community members are helping restaurants and businesses in their neighborhoods by becoming invested in them.

In Southwest Baltimore, the black-owned Caribbean-American restaurant, Sofusion Cafe, turned to the community to help it grow with the help of crowdfunding.

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“Not a lot of people know that oh they can invest in their local businesses and this is the way for them to be involved,” said Denise Butts, owner of Sofusion Cafe.

It’s a way for community members to give as little as $100 to local businesses online and become investors in them.  It’s being promoted by a local non-profit Community Wealth Builders.

“This is businesses sourcing the capital they need from customers from residents from people and then offering them something in return,” said Stephanie Geller, Community Wealth Builders Director.

Since 2019, over 40 businesses have used what Community Wealth Builders call the Maryland Neighborhood Exchange to crowdfund. Some of the businesses were denied loans and weren’t getting help from banks.

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“The business that we’re building was not seen as within the lines of lending because we were considered a restaurant and during the time of covid a lot of lenders are not looking to do the resultant industry,” said Ashley Watson, The Greywood. 

Ashley and Kenneth Watson are using crowdfunding to build a culinary incubator and event space in Southwest Baltimore as well, an area that’s considered a food desert. They said it’s a way to bring residents business they want in their own neighborhood.

“I know what you want and now let’s bring it here and you can become invested in the thing that you said this area needs,” said Kenneth Watson.

Those interested in helping these businesses can visit: communitywealthbuilders.org/md-exchange.

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Stetson Miller