Battles launched Miss Johnny Mae in 2020, using his grandmother's recipes. Photo courtesy of Otis Battles.

The second round of the Beyond Open Grant is approaching, and hundreds of local minority-owned businesses are expected to apply.

Foundation For The Carolinas, which leads the initiative, completed the first of three rounds in January, awarding a total of $6 million to a number of “diverse-owned” small businesses in Charlotte’s six Corridors of Opportunity

In the first round, 3,200 businesses applied and 178 were awarded, with packages ranging from $5,000 to upwards of $250,000. 

Why it matters: Small minority-owned businesses typically have fewer collateral options to secure loans and funding.

The Round 2 application will open on the initiative’s website on August 1 and will close on August 31.

QCity Metro spoke with local grantees about their businesses and how they’ve used the money.

Expanding to a Brick-and-Mortar

Otis Battles applied for the first round of the Beyond Open grant when his Caribbean fusion restaurant, Miss Johnny Mae, was still operating as a food truck.

Battles launched his business in 2020 in honor of its namesake, his grandmother.

“When my grandmother passed, she left all of us something,” he told QCity Metro. She left me her recipes.”

Before applying for the grant, Battles said he participated in Black Food Truck Friday and grew in popularity from there. He also traveled to Washington D.C. for Biden’s inauguration and Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay, Fla.

He decided to apply for the Beyond Open grant and received $2,500 to purchase a new refrigerator for his food truck.

Battles later opened his first brick-and-mortar location in High Point, N.C. He plans to reapply for the second round to open a location in Charlotte.

“I really want Charlotte to be my headquarters,” he said. “Charlotte is more diverse, it’s more people here. I can do more. I can offer the city more.”

Recovering from Covid

Tony Rushings and his wife, Nikki, are pictured above. Tony said his wife is the “brains behind 180° Productions, LLC.

Tony Rushing started 180° Productions, LLC, a photography and videography company, in 2017. 

Rushing’s business became a full-time job, as he had clients across the state.

Covid forced many of his scheduled gigs to cancel, which he said caused him a loss of $50,000 in contract opportunities.

Rushing ultimately worked as an Amazon delivery driver for a year to provide for his family until Covid restrictions decreased and events began happening again. 

He said he noticed an increase in livestream use. 

“Everybody was live-streaming, from teachers to live conferences,” he said. “We had to pivot, but I didn’t have the equipment.” 

Rushing was informed of the Beyond Open grant. He and his wife decided to apply for $20,000 and was awarded the exact amount.

He purchased additional cameras, lights and other equipment for live streaming, he said. 

Gigs have since picked back up, Rushing said. 

“[The grant] was life-changing,” he said. 

From catering service to inspiring brick-and-mortar owner

Joreika Downey wants to open her first brick-and-mortar location in Charlotte. Photo courtesy of Joreika Downey

Joreika Downey opened her catering business, G.R.I.T.S CLT, in February 2019.

The business offers “a fusion of Southern Cuisine with the taste of the Caribbean, Creole, Spanish, and African Cuisines.”

Downey said she was forced to shut down during the pandemic.

Downey reopened her food truck in May 2021, but like other businesses, she struggled to find staffing amidst a labor shortage, she said.

She applied for the Beyond Open grant and received $20,000 to pay for staffing and maintenance on her food truck. 

Downey said she plans to apply during the second round to use the money to open her first brick-and-mortar location in Charlotte’s West End.

“I have a building that I have my eye on in the Beatties Ford corridor,” she said.

Growing her Barbershop business

Teneisha Malik Smith opened her first brick-and-mortar barber shop in 2019 called Smitteez Cutz Barber Shop, at 3000 N. Graham St.

During the first few years, Smith said marketing her shop to the public was difficult.

“My biggest challenge is filling the space with workers,” she said. “Covid was a big factor with having to close my doors.”

Smith reopened her shop in May 2021 and applied for the Beyond Open Grant last fall. She was awarded $25,000.

With the funding, she purchased equipment and advertisements, as well as remodeled her shop. 

Smith said she is unsure if she will apply again. If she does, she told QCity Metro she would use the money to purchase a trailer for a mobile barber unit. 

If you plan to apply, businesses must meet the eligibility criteria according to the amount requested and follow the application checklist listed on the website. Contact for general questions. Applications are open Aug. 1- 31

Jalon is a general assignment reporter for QCity Metro. He is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and an avid sports fan. (

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