Two Morris county Black-owned businesses are thriving after being selected for $10,000 grants awarded by the New York Jets and VISA. Sweetpea Technologies, LLC in Madison and Mo’Pweeze Bakery in Denville both have invested the grant money in equipment and marketing.
The Jets and VISA teamed up to reinforce their commitment to support Black-owned small businesses, amplify black voices and help provide financial stability to communities in need during these particular hard times, according to their joint announcement of the winners.
They partnered with the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey to promote the grant program, with applicants required to explain how they would invest the funds if selected. The Morris County Chamber selected Sweetpea Technologies and Mo’Pweeze Bakery as the winners.
“In each of these two Black-owned businesses we saw two enterprises that have unique business models clearly filling a need,” said Meghan Hunscher, president of the Morris County Chamber. “They’ve both been in operation for a while and have a proven track record of success. And they both had really good ideas of how to deploy the money to grow their businesses.”
Sweetpea Technologies, founded in 2004, is a video and audio transfer company that also provides video editing and some videography services. Most commonly, they transfer 8 millimeter and video cassette film into digital format. The company is named for owner Alphonso Croom’s mother, Allene, whom his father has been calling Sweetpea for years. Croom said he was thrilled to be selected a recipient of the grant.
“The first thing we did was join the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “By joining the Morris County Chamber we were put in contact with some people. We don’t (usually) have the budget for advertising and social media and through the chamber we found a social media person and that’s worked out really well.”
Croom also invested some of the grant money in new equipment.
“It’s allowed us to continue operating,” he said. “We’ve needed to upgrade our equipment for two years. It’s helped tremendously. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
As an added bonus, the Jets have retained Sweetpea Technologies to transfer their game film from past decades into digital.
Mo’Pweeze Bakery, founded in 2013, makes allergen-free, vegan and Kosher products, catering to the allergy community as well as the general public. Years ago founder and owner Christine Allen was struggling to find a bakery that would produce a cake that her son with food allergies could eat for her twins’ fourth birthday when she decided to make muffins herself.
“The first time my twins had the muffins they both said, ‘Mo’pweeze,’” Allen said. “That was my inspiration. If I could accommodate my son with his food allergies, what else could I do to help the allergy community. That’s where the passion came from.”
Allen said she was overjoyed when she was informed she was being awarded the grant, feeling the passion and hard work she puts into her products was being recognized. Like Sweetpea Technologies, she invested in marketing and equipment, including a new refrigerator.
“We’ve been doing a lot of marketing and branding to expand our reach,” she said. “We’ve been talking to marketing professionals.”
As a result, Mo’Pweeze is now offering personalized cookie boxes and shipping their products, an expansion of the business, according to Allen.
In a statement announcing the winners, New York Jets president Hymie Elhai, said, “We are delighted to partner with VISA to help amplify Black voices and the importance of supporting our local neighbors. It is our hope, through this collaboration, that we can provide financial stability to communities in need during these hard times.”