Ole Miss Alumnus Launches Nonprofit to Aid Mississippi’s Small Businesses

University of Mississippi alumnus and his wife—who met during Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts—are continuing to help the state’s small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brian and Marie Sanderson, of Ocean Springs, Miss., have launched the Mississippi 30 Day Fund. Small businesses in Mississippi can apply for as much as $3,000 through the new fund, which was created to provide immediate financial help to those battling through the pandemic.

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“These forgivable loans are designed to be quick, easy and free of red tape, as small business owners work to keep employees onboard and operations running in the near term,” said Brian Sanderson, a Pascagoula native who received his Bachelor of Business Administration and Juris Doctor from UM in 1995 and 1998, respectively.

Eligible business owners should fill out a one-page form and submit a brief video—up to three minutes—about the business and its employees. Approval is designed to occur within several days, and approved businesses can expect an immediate transfer of funds.

“We received contributions totaling just over $175,000 and are actively talking with foundations and other potential contributors,” said Marie Sanderson, a Jacksonian who earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from Mississippi State University in 2001.

“We’ve received almost 600 applications and have been able to award around 30 small businesses. Our ability to meet the obvious needs of small businesses is strictly dependent upon the contributions we are able to receive.”

Businesses that receive funds are not required to repay them but are asked to “pay it forward” to other Mississippians in need or by directing contributions to the fund.

To be eligible, companies must be owned and operated by a Mississippi resident, based in Mississippi and operating for at least one year, and employ between three and 30 people.

During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Sandersons recognized how instrumental small businesses are to the economy and character of Mississippi. The response and leadership of the private sector was important then, and the philanthropists believe it is even more critical now.

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“We have witnessed neighbors and friends across the state struggle to keep their small businesses and jobs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” Marie Sanderson said. “This fund will be a lifeline to many Mississippians over the coming weeks and will complement the worthy federal and state aid programs.”

The Mississippi 30 Day Fund is partnering with the UM School of Law and the Mississippi State University School of Business, whose MBA candidates and law students will conduct an initial review of applications for eligibility. Julia Grant, a 2020 Ole Miss public policy leadership and economics graduate, serves as the fund’s executive director.

Community and business leaders from across Mississippi serve on the advisory board. Additionally, several former Mississippi governors and congressmen, along with other notable Mississippians, have joined the honorary advisory board and view the fund as a crucial source of aid for struggling small businesses across the state.

“The economy of Mississippi has been built by our countless small businesses and the innovative, entrepreneurial spirits behind them,” Grant said. “They create and showcase the unique culture that attracts people from all around the world to Mississippi. They employ the great majority of our people in the state, and Mississippi is better when our small businesses thrive.”

For more information or to apply, visit http://ms30dayfund.com.

This article was adapted slightly from the original version appearing on the University of Mississippi website.

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