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Mastercard to help St. Louis small business grow their digital efforts

Leslie Christian-Wilson, Diversity Gallery owner, hands a hat to Mayor Tishaura Jones on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at Christian-Wilson’s shop in north St. Louis. Diversity Gallery is one of the businesses which will benefit from Mastercard’s expansion of their Digital Doors program which provides data tools, educational materials, and leverages banking relationships to bolster the small business community and uplift small business owners in the region.
Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Leslie Christian-Wilson, right, Diversity Gallery owner, hands a hat to Mayor Tishaura Jones on Wednesday at Christian-Wilson’s shop in north St. Louis. Diversity Gallery is one of the businesses to benefit from Mastercard’s expansion of its Digital Doors program, which helps small businesses with their digital presence.

Small businesses in St. Louis now have access to easier tools to help them establish an online presence.

Mastercard announced Wednesday that it is rolling out a branded version of its Digital Doors website, alongside the Small Business Empowerment Center. Digital Doors helps businesses design and build websites and gives them discounts to platforms like Facebook Business and Shopify.

While all businesses can access Digital Doors online, bringing on the Small Business Empowerment Center as a partner builds trust in the tools, said Ginger Siegel, head of Mastercard’s small-business efforts in North America.

“We believe that St. Louis has a very unique relationship with their small businesses, and we think small businesses in St. Louis will be much more apt to want to go to organizations they’re familiar with,” Siegel said.

The company estimates that at the start of the pandemic in 2020, as many as 10 million small businesses in America did not have an online presence. That number included Diversity Gallery, a boutique clothing store and natural hair salon in the Vandeventer neighborhood.

The gallery’s owner, Leslie Christian, used Digital Doors tools to update her website and set up online payments.

“These resources will allow me and my business to become stabilized and to be able to pivot from this pandemic,” Christian said. “I’ve endured a recession and now COVID. So I’m really optimistic about this opportunity to be able to take my business to the next level.”

Mayor Tishaura Jones, a close friend of Christian’s, said the partnership with Mastercard is part of her commitment to ensuring economic justice.

Hoba Smith, Floral Play owner, reacts while accepting a $10 thousand grant on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at Diversity Gallery in north St. Louis. Smith said the grant would go toward purchasing a refrigerated truck for her floral arrangement business.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Hoba Smith, right, Floral Play owner, reacts while accepting a $10,000 grant on Wednesday. Smith said the grant would go toward purchasing a refrigerated truck for her floral arrangement business.

“When business owners succeed, St. Louis as a whole succeeds,” Jones said. “But for far too long, many small businesses and entrepreneurs have lacked the resources and the know-how, or have just been plain shut out of opportunities.”

Fearless Fund grant

Also on Wednesday, Mastercard, along with the Fearless Fund, a venture capital fund for Black women-owned small businesses, presented a $10,000 grant to Hoba Smith, who owns Floral Play in Maryland Heights.

Smith said she planned to use the money to help purchase a refrigerated box truck, which makes it easier to transport floral arrangements. She promised the Mastercard executives in attendance that “greatness would come” from the grant.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann 

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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