Tracy Russ, who leads the grant program, speaking at the announcement ceremony. November 2023. (Jalon Hill/QCity Metro)

Beyond Open, a small business grant program, awarded 116 small businesses within Charlotte’s Corridors of Opportunity in its second round. Funding totaled $4.8 million from the second round of applications.

The program is part of Foundation For The Carolinas, and more than 400 applicants completed a competitive review process. Those accepted receive grants ranging from $10,000 to $150,000. 

“We are celebrating our way of helping build economic mobility,” Tracy Russ, FFTC Special Advisor for Civic Initiatives, who is leading the Beyond Open program.

The grant program is funded by Wells Fargo in part of their Open for Business Fund, an initiative that supported small, minority businesses to stay afloat during the pandemic. Since January, Beyond Open has awarded a combined total of $10.7 million in its first two rounds. 

“This grant program is an example of enabling entrepreneurs to invest in their business so they can provide more jobs in the community and grow,” Jenny Flores, head of small business growth philanthropy for Wells Fargo, said in a statement. 

Data released by the foundation shows that, of the grantees in the second round, 70% identify as Black or African-American. The majority are women-owned. 

City Councilmember Malcolm Graham said he’s pleased with the growth of the program that has helped many business owners in Charlotte’s District 4. 

Graham said small businesses are key contributors to Charlotte’s economic growth. As Charlotte continues to grow, so will the support for these businesses, he said.

A grantee’s perspective

Business owners often use the funding for resources and staff support, like Carmen Blackmon, owner of Rise UP Learning Center, a tutoring and exam prep service in east Charlotte. 

Blackmon was a round one recipient of the Beyond Open Grant, who applied for funding to increase technology at her business.

With the grant, she was able to purchase a Smart TV, laptops, and a new printer. 

Her business saw a 20% increase in revenue two months later, she said, helping her employ five certified tutors in her program.

“This opportunity does not come around often, and I am grateful for it,” she said.

Details of the third and final round will be shared at the beginning of 2024.

See the full list of second-round grantees here.  For updates, visit the Beyond Open website.

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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