The return of Summerfest crowds is a big deal for vendors. This year a grant is ensuring there's space for minority-owned businesses.
The BMO EMpower Grant Program helped nine small business minority owners with funding to support their work at the Big Gig.
Being a Summerfest vendor is a dream come true for Lilo Allen, the owner of Papyrus and Charms.
"I always used to go to Summerfest as a kid and I always wanted to be a vendor. My dad would take me to marketplaces and it's just something that we loved," Allen said.
Allen sells crystal jewelry, unique earrings, patches and more at her shop on the festival grounds, thanks in part to the EMpower grant she received.
"A lot of Black and Brown-owned and queer-owned businesses don't have start up capital to take on such a large task as Summerfest. Even if it's just $1,000, it doesn't matter, that little bit of extra, it really helps," Allen said.
Ashley Bester-Barnett, the owner Scents and Stuff, also received an EMpower grant.
"The BMO EMpower grant was crucial in gaining capital for access to things like raw materials," Bester-Barnett said. "This has been instrumental in the growth of my business."
According to the 2021 Small Business Credit Survey, Black-owned firms are least likely to receive all the financing they apply for. White-owned firms receive all financing 40% of the time compared to just 13% for Black-owned firms.