By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Meda, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, has worked to help BIPOC businesses for decades.

CEO Alfredo Martel says it was born out of a similar time 50 years ago, after the Plymouth Avenue civil unrest in 1967. Martel says now is just as critical as ever to work to close the racial wealth gap.

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WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle learned how entrepreneurs are thriving with a hand-up.

Little learners at Olu’s Beginnings are part of founder Gloria Freeman’s dream to build a lasting legacy.

“We focus on healthy well-being,” Freeman said.

The road to get the early childhood program off the ground took grit, determination, and not accepting the no on a loan from her bank.

“There were frustrating moments,” Freeman said. “It was hurtful. I took it personal.”

That’s where Meda entered the picture. The nonprofit dedicated to helping BIPOC entrepreneurs with consulting, capital and opportunities helped fill the gap.

“Helped me with my performance, connections, money, a number of things,” Freeman said.

“There is a staggering problem,” Martel said. “Many of our clients have been through the mainstream services and the system and they might be deemed unbankable. In our view, in our mission, we invest in those very same clients.”

Martel explains there is a ripple effect when a BIPOC entrepreneur makes it.

“Business success is an immediate wealth augmenter for a household. BIPOC entrepreneurs hire BIPOC employees, they pay a livable wage, and they are all connected by the community,” Martel said.

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Freeman says for her it was about creating an intergenerational business. Her daughter runs the day-to-day operations. She credits Meda’s help with being in business today.

“I do know with Meda’s support I was able to accomplish my goal,” Freeman said.

Meda’s assistance allowed Conrad Nguyen to acquire Kortech, a small business that connects people with companies.

“This is a big deal, personally,” Nguyen said.

He came to the U.S. after living in a refugee camp, his family having fled Vietnam. The at-risk high school dropout moved to Minnesota where he’d receive his diploma, go on to graduate from college, and get an MBA.

“It’s always been that underdog mentality,” Nguyen said.

He had a loan but needed working capital to make the deal. Meda provided that so he could pay employees while building clients.

“I felt like I had a team supporting me, going through it,” Nguyen said.

It allowed him to build for the future.

“This is not just about us. It’s about creating something that’s positive for the next generation. I’m getting teary talking about my kid, but to me this is the American dream,” Nguyen said.

Meda helped Freeman again recently. She purchased a building that stretches a block on Hennepin at 23rd. There’s currently residential and commercial spaces leased, and she intends to open a beauty business in an open space.

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Jennifer Mayerle