AJ Williams, owner of the Balloon Love Shop, took the leap into business with with help of the Comcast RISE Program.

AJ Williams, owner of the Balloon Love Shop, took the leap into business with with help of the Comcast RISE Program.

Small Business Owners Finding Support Through Special Grant Program

Starting a small business at any time can come with an enormous amount of challenges but starting one during a pandemic creates even more. I’m so thankful to have weathered the storm with my business in Kent, Balloon Love Shop. I credit determination, hard work, care for my customers, and willingness to seek help from all types of avenues. One of those was the Comcast RISE grant program for businesses owned by persons of color.

What is Balloon Love Shop? It’s love, it’s power, it’s community. I lost my job in the middle of the pandemic and wasn’t sure what was next. That’s when I decided to take the leap of uncertainty and dive into business. Many people may wonder why someone would go into this type of work. But think about what balloons represent: joy, celebrations, marking significant events in our lives.

How can anyone be mad at balloons? And that’s why I love what I do so much. Each customer is unique and comes with their unique vision of what kind of balloons they want us to create. That’s what makes this job so fun. One of the most challenging and exciting creations was a 30-foot rocket made of 1,000 balloons for the launch of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin for his famous trip to outer space. But I always say balloons are for everyone, whether it’s a big event like that or the little girl who walks in the shop to buy one balloon.

There weren’t many businesses owned by people who looked like me growing up. That’s why it’s so important to support small businesses owned by persons of color. That support helps them grow into larger companies that can then encourage the next generation. That is the focus of the Comcast RISE program.

I applied for the marketing and technology grant to take my business to the next level. Being a small business owner can be discouraging at times, but being selected as a grant recipient is one of those moments where I felt such fulfillment and excitement. Someone recognized my hard work and wanted to support me and the business I love.

The grant gave my business a technology upgrade, from new laptops and iPads to a multi-year commitment to marketing support. But it went beyond just the items I received, and it gave me a sense that I can make it through, break cycles and if you want it bad enough, it’s yours. I want to share this with other small business owners. It’s essential to take advantage of every opportunity to help your business grow, so I urge any POC or women-owned business to apply to Comcast RISE.

I loved to create things as a kid, and I’m so grateful that I can share my passion with others through my business. If they can dream it, we can create it. Whether it’s for a birthday, graduation, saying goodbye to a loved one at a funeral or anniversary, I’m happy to be part of that particular day. Everyone has a moment in their life that should be celebrated, just as every small business owner deserves their chance to find success. I’m so grateful to get that chance to share my passion and bring love to the Kent community. Who would have thought that balloons would be the glue to connect my community to change?

Comcast RISE is accepting applications through June 17, 2022 for Marketing & Technology Services awards through the Comcast RISE Investment Fund. For more information and to apply, visit www.comcastrise.com.

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