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SEED East End Grant Recipients Announced

2020 SEED Grants Totaling $125,000 Awarded to 10 East End Businesses

$639,500 awarded since 2011, benefiting 38 East End businesses

Richmond, Va. (Nov. 18, 2020) – Ten local businesses in Richmond’s East End received Supporting East End Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) grant awards today at a virtual ceremony, totaling $125,000. Bon Secours and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Virginia created the SEED program in 2011 as an economic development and job creation initiative for Richmond’s East End neighborhood. Capital One and Retail Merchants (RMA) have also partnered with Bon Secours and LISC for this year’s SEED awards. RMA joined the initiative as fund administrator in partnership with LISC, and Capital One joined Bon Secours as a grant funder.

The SEED program provides grants to business owners who plan to open or expand a business within the city of Richmond, along the 25th Street and Nine Mile Road corridor. Since the program’s inception, a total of $639,500 in SEED awards distributed through 62 grants has helped 38 East End businesses take root in the community. Today’s announcement, the eighth in the program’s history, consisted of three first-time award recipients: Glean, Pomona and Walnut Alley. They join seven businesses that have received SEED awards in prior years: BareSOUL Yoga, C Alexander’s Cleaners, Carolina Bar B Que, EZ Body & Auto Repair Service, Favour Cookie Company, Jade Salon, and Soul N’ Vinegar.

Bon Secours contributed $100,000 in grant funding, bringing its total contribution to $569,500 toward these small business SEED grants since 2011.

“The SEED program is an important community initiative for Bon Secours. As a faith-based, mission-driven health care ministry, our goal is to improve the overall health of our communities through health promotion, job creation, food access, education and affordable housing,” said Faraaz Yousuf, market president, Bon Secours Richmond. “For eight years, this program has been a catalyst for a new vibrancy in the East End. We are thrilled to see new faces this year, as well as returning entrepreneurs, all of whom have decided to make a difference in their community.”

Capital One has contributed a total of $70,000 in funding since 2016 to East End businesses through the SEED program. Capital One, however, has been involved in the SEED program since 2014 serving as a program partner and having representation on the business review panel each year.

“Small business development and support is a focus of our community investment strategy, the Capital One Impact Initiative,” said Chad Eisele, managing vice president of card finance at Capital One.  “Creating powerful communities requires a variety of small business owners working towards a more equitable future. Over the next five years, we will be accelerating investments in communities across the U.S. to support Black- and minority-owned businesses, as well as small businesses that have been financially impacted by the economic uncertainty of COVID-19. The SEED program creates a pathway to connect with local community partners and small business owners to deliver on that goal.”

Beyond the grant funding, and new to the SEED program in 2020, Retail Merchants is serving as fund administrator in partnership with LISC. RMA plays an integral role in providing these small businesses with access to a network of peer business owners in addition to no-cost resources including advocacy and information.

“Small businesses are the fabric of our community; no one understands the needs of a neighborhood quite like those who live and work within it,” said Nancy Thomas, President and CEO of Retail Merchants. “The SEED program provides participants with a path to essential resources and funding so that they can continue to support their community and sustain entrepreneurship opportunities in Richmond’s East End.” 

LISC Virginia provides the SEED recipients with business planning and coaching to teach each business owner key strategies for how to run a successful business. Over the years, both Bon Secours and Capital One have provided funding beyond their grant donations to cover the cost of these critical business-mentoring services.

“The SEED program represents our commitment to providing sustained investment and support to minority-led small businesses,” said Jane Ferrara, executive director of Virginia LISC. “The added partnerships of Capital One and Retail Merchants have benefited the program tremendously, and we are excited to continue working with them and Bon Secours to nurture East End businesses.” 

The 2020 Business Review Panel, which selected the 2020 SEED recipients, includes; Chad Eisele, managing vice president of card finance, Capital One, and board member, Virginia LISC; Ervin Clark, chairman, Central VA African American Chamber of Commerce; Lester Johnson, owner, Mama J’s and Vagabond; Pat Foster, director of minority business development for the City of Richmond; Rebecca Clay Christensen, executive director of community health, Bon Secours; and Sean O’Brien, director of community health, Bon Secours.

SEED Awardee

BareSOUL Yoga

BareSOUL Yoga & Wellness is a small business that was founded by Ashley Williams in August 2015. Their mission is to bridge yoga, education and community to cultivate a diverse, accessible experience that provides balance to the mind, body and SOUL for the greater impact. They will use their grant funds to support business operations and expansion.

C. Alexander’s Cleaners

C. Alexander’s Cleaners is a dry-cleaning, laundry and alterations business located in the historic Church Hill district of Richmond. They provide an eco-friendly cleaning service with a gentle cleaning action that puts a care into the garments that is noticeable to customers. C. Alexander’s Cleaners puts the customer first and always provides an exceptional experience.  They will use their grant funds to purchase new equipment.

Carolina Bar B Que

Carolina Bar B Que is a take-out restaurant that provides home cooked meals at an affordable price located on Nine Mile Road in Church Hill. The restaurant was purchased in 2014 by Lamont and Alisha Hawkins, after being a staple in the community since 1970. The new ownership has a focus on food access and excellent customer service. They will use their grant funds for exterior signage and marketing

EZ Body & Auto Repair Service

EZ Body & Auto Repair Service is a women-owned automotive service for the Church Hill area. The business has over 30 years’ worth of automotive experience that provides high quality, convenient, and comprehensive auto repair at competitive rate. With a focus on trust, they rely on positive word of mouth to help grow their business. They will use their grant funds for system updates and machinery.

Favour Cookie Company

Favour Cookie Company was created in 2018 by Sequoia Ross to create delicious, craft, frozen vegan cookie dough. They offer both vegan and gluten free options, designed to show that vegan food can also be delicious! Their doughs can be baked straight from the freezer or one of the only cookies that can be eaten frozen. They will use their grant funds for marketing and promotional materials.


Glean is a commercial cleaning company that is mission-focused on living-wage job creation for local citizens. In order to complete this mission, Glean provides an average hourly wage that is 30% higher than local competitors and financially incentivizes great work from staff. Owner, Nicole Mason, has grown this company from infancy stage to employing seven local citizens. They will use their grant funds for transition to W2 employees and recruitment efforts.

Jade Salon

Jade Salon is a multicultural full-service hair care salon. They specialize in custom color, precision cuts, and cutting-edge styles as well as all aspects of hair care for men and women. With over 22 years of progressive experience in the hair care industry, their goal is to enhance their client’s overall image while educating them. Jade Salon has become a place for all people to join and build each other up by creating relationships of support and compassion. They will use their grant funds for training and software implementation.


In 2016 Melissa and Frayser Micou opened a plant and gift shop called “Gather Home and Garden”. But by 2017, the time was right for expanding into a larger space that combined their plantlife principles with a harvest-based menu, now known as Pomona. They are committed to the role a business can play in building community by hosting annual fundraisers for many nonprofits, creating plant and health related programming, and working with local or independent artisans. They will use their grant funds to adapt their business with COVID spatial and health modifications and marketing.  

Soul N’ Vinegar

Soul N’ Vinegar is a local food brand focused on providing high quality, health conscious, diversely flavored items with an emphasis on affordability and convenience, all with a neighborhood feel. Soul N’ Vinegar consists of a brick and mortar retail storefront located in Church Hill, a satellite location inside of the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art that operates as a cafe and event space, and Soul N’ Vinegar Catering, a full-service catering business specializing in custom events and community based work. With a focus on local partnerships, they offer affordability and bold diverse flavors. They will use their grant funds to refocus their community catering business to enable ready-to-eat takeaway meals.

Walnut Alley

Walnut Alley was born in October 2015 out of a need for waste management on Walnut Alley, an undesignated waste drop-off spot. The company provides Waste Management services for restaurants, apartments, landlords and parking lots. They specialize in urban areas without dumpster access, facilitating cleaner communities. In the past five years they have expanded beyond Shockoe Bottom to Church Hill, The Slip, Manchester and Jackson Ward. They will use their grant funds for marketing and promotional materials.


About Bon Secours – Richmond

Bon Secours – Richmond is part of Bon Secours Mercy Health, one of the 20 largest health systems in the United States and the fifth-largest Catholic health system in the country. The ministry’s quality, compassionate care is provided by more than 60,000 associates serving communities in Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia, as well as throughout Ireland. Bon Secours – Richmond provides compassionate medical care through a network of hospitals, primary and specialty care practices, ambulatory care sites and continuing care facilities. As one of Richmond’s largest employers, the not-for-profit health system employs more than 9,000 people, including nearly 420 providers as part of the Bon Secours Medical Group. Bon Secours – Richmond includes St. Mary’s Hospital, Memorial Regional Medical Center, Richmond Community Hospital, St. Francis Medical Center, Rappahannock General Hospital, Southside Regional Medical Center, Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center, Westchester Emergency Center, Short Pump Emergency Center and Southside Emergency Care Center. Consistent with its commitment to serve each patient with dignity, Bon Secours Mercy Health provides nearly $2 million per day in community benefit. The mission of Bon Secours is to extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being of our communities and bring good help to those in need, especially people who are poor, dying and underserved. For more information visit

About Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Virginia

For more than 30 years, LISC Virginia has worked with residents and community organizations to revitalize under-served neighborhoods across Central Virginia by investing in the interconnected areas of housing, health, education, public safety, and employment. For more information, visit

About Capital One

Capital One Financial Corporation ( is a financial holding company whose subsidiaries, which include Capital One, N.A., and Capital One Bank (USA), N.A., had $304.2 billion in deposits and $421.3 billion in total assets as of  June 30, 2020. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients through a variety of channels. Capital One, N.A. has branches located primarily in New York, Louisiana, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. A Fortune 500 company, Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “COF” and is included in the S&P 100 index.

Visit the Capital One newsroom for more Capital One news.

About Retail Merchants (RMA)

For more than 100 years Retail Merchants (RMA) has championed the success of local retailers and related businesses. By using the power of a collective voice to advocate on their behalf, providing educational resources, and connecting the retail community through events and programs, RMA endeavors to be the ultimate resource for local retailers. To learn more, visit