Philadelphia Announces Awards from Salon and Barbershop Emergency Relief (SABER) Program

BarbershopImage by David Mark

PHILADELPHIA, PA — The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Community Empowerment and its partners announced that 159 hair care businesses were recently selected to receive a total of $795,000 from the Salon and Barbershop Emergency Relief Program (SABER). The program was designed to provide financial relief to businesses in the hair care industry that were among the most adversely impacted by the City’s pandemic-related restrictions last year.

The businesses were selected from a pool of businesses that had already applied for grants with the City’s COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund and with the Commonwealth-funded COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance program. To be eligible, businesses had to be located in one of 17 priority zip codes with the highest poverty rates. Of the businesses that were selected, 99 percent are minority-owned and 60 percent are women-owned. Each will receive a one-time $5,000 grant.

“As close-contact businesses, those in the hair care industry were among the last to reopen due to restrictions enacted to stop the spread of the virus,” said Mitchell Little, Executive Director of CEO. “The industry is also largely made up of minority- and women-owned businesses, which are historically underserved and vital to the success of our neighborhood commercial corridors. It is important that we support these businesses as we continue to work toward an equitable recovery.”

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“It helped me a whole lot. I was trying to get the shop fixed up, but I didn’t have the money,” said Mitchell Chellis, owner of Hair Situations and a grant recipient. “Once I got the grant, I was able to renovate the shop and now people are knocking the door down to get a job. The clientele has also gone up to the point where I can only take appointments.”

The grants were distributed in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Commerce, VestedIn, and Entrepreneur Works, and funded by Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) CARES Act Supplemental Award dollars.

“Small businesses like barbershops and salons are pillars of their communities,” said Michael Rashid, Philadelphia Commerce Director. “The pandemic created tremendous challenges for these businesses that provide in-person services, especially the many minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the hair care industry. This funding will provide direct support to more than 150 businesses across Philadelphia so they can recover and rebuild.”

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“The beauty and barber industry was one of the hardest-hit sectors as a result of the business closures caused by COVID-19 and later, faced with the steepest requirements, were the last to reopen,” said Jim Burnett, Executive Director of VestedIn. “Even today, most businesses in this industry are still not operating at pre-pandemic levels. These grants have given salons, barbers, and braiders in the most impoverished neighborhoods in our city the resources needed to purchase inventory and cleaning supplies, the ability to make physical changes to their businesses and to retain employees. VestedIn and Entrepreneur Works are committed to continuing to support this vital industry in Philadelphia.”

“Many of these businesses were shut out of funding relief programs because they lacked the know-how to access these monies before they ran out,” added Leslie Benoliel, President and CEO of Entrepreneur Works. Working in close partnership with the City and building on the relationships we had already established in these communities and with this industry sector, in particular, Entrepreneur Works and VestedIn were able to connect with and guide the beauty salon and barbershop owners to successfully access these critically needed grant funds.”

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Businesses approved for grants may use the funds for any business-related expense, including overhead, inventory, staff, and debt.

The SABER program is unrelated to the grant program for hair care professionals announced by the Commonwealth in August. A full list of SABER grant recipients can be found here.

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