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Millions being used to support local minority-owned businesses

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — When people head to Four Seasons Town Centre next year, they might see some more diversity.

Not just with the shoppers but with the places that they shop for clothes or gifts. 

$25 million is being allocated to support minority-owned businesses and help get them into brick-and-mortar suites in malls owned by Brookfield Properties. 

The new program, called Partner to Empower, will include the Four Seasons Town Centre. 

The goal is to open 20-25 new minority-owned businesses in 2021. 

Within five years, Brookfield Properties leaders want to help 250 business owners get their own shops at their malls. 

Michelle Isabel, the regional vice president for the company told FOX8, she hopes this helps close the opportunity gap and helps minority entrepreneurs succeed.

“We are the first African-American business in this particular mall,” Jackie White said.

White’s mother opened African American Arts at Four Seasons Towne Center 32 years ago. 

“There was discrimination when my mother first came into the mall,” she added.

While there are now more minority-owned businesses setting up shop, some people told FOX8 they don’t think it’s enough.

“This mall can’t sustain itself just off of one race,” White said. “We need all cultures and races to come in here and support businesses here.”

“We all should have the opportunities that everyone else has as far as having our own business,” added Dasia Henderson.

Henderson is a manager with Bovanti Cosmetics, a color-inclusive makeup and skincare company. 

“A lot of these stores are not lasting,” she said. “That’s an issue.”

It’s a problem Henderson hopes will be fixed by the new Partner to Empower program.

“The most important thing is the knowledge,” Isabel said. “Not knowing how to get started. Not knowing how to build out their stores. Not knowing the right questions to ask.”

Isabel told FOX8 that businesses accepted into the program won’t just get the upfront capital needed to get their own shop in one of their malls, but they’ll also get access to retail workshops and education.

“I’m a black woman working for this company. We want to break down the systemic racial barriers,” she explained. “Our goal is to make sure we help them open and be sustainable.”

A kind of sustainability that these women hope will create even more change in their community.

“Black people support everybody, no matter the culture,” White said. “Other cultures should support black-owned businesses too.”

Applications for the program are open until June 18.

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