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Ezell’s founders start grant program to help local Black-owned businesses

Crowds outside Ezells Chicken listen to march organizers explain gentrification issues in this historically Black neighborhood during the Juneteenth Freedom March and Celebration on June 19, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Ezell’s Chicken is a well-known Black-owned business in Seattle — and a local favorite. The company is using its platform and influence to now help other Black-owned businesses in the community thrive through the creation of a grant program in partnership with Doordash.

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Lewis Rudd, a co-founder of Ezell’s, told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show that the initiative started as a dream, but has now become a reality. The program is call the Rudd’s R.U.B.B. (Raising Up Black Businesess) Initiative.

“Today, the Rudd’s R.U.B.B. Initiative is real, it’s alive, and it’s becoming impactful in the African-American community and helping out Black-owned businesses,” Rudd said.

“It started out as a conversation and an idea with a very special rep at Doordash. During the pandemic, Ezell’s was doing fairly well,” Rudd said. “We had a business model that was pretty much geared for and ready for the pandemic and its effect on businesses, which was 80% takeout to begin with.”

“And we have partnered with Doordash and built a huge following on their platform,” he added. “… Doordash approached Ezell’s with an opportunity to do a special promotional campaign.”

This was during a time when there was a lot of focus from people across the country on social injustices and inequality that had impacted the African-American community, people of color, and minority-owned businesses for so long, Rudd explained.

“Doordash was one of those that said, what can I do to help?” he said. “And so, Ezell’s — because we’re doing well — I said, can we divert those funds to some businesses in the community that I’m aware of and know that are not doing as well? It would be great for Ezell’s to continue to grow and advance, but here’s a time when we have an opportunity to support other Black-owned businesses in the community that are not doing well, that are struggling. So it started there, and here we are.”

The initiative will give 20 grants to Black-owned businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Rudd says the initial applications and feedback have been overwhelming.

He’s also hopeful that this is just a starting point, and that this is something that will catch on and grow in other communities, other states, and that other business owners will pick up and support.

“There’s a definite need to support African-owned businesses, Black-owned businesses, so, yes, starting out, we’re going to do 20 grants or awards, no strings attached,” he said. “There will be a process by which the businesses will be selected.”

“We want these businesses to be deserving and worthy of support, financially,” he added.

There have already been more than 225 applicants, Rudd said.

Read more about the Rudd’s R.U.B.B. Initiative online here. Listen to the full interview with Rudd, who shares more reasons why it’s important to support Black-owned businesses in your community, at the audio player above or online here.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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