Rende Progress Capital funds two Black-owned retail startups

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Archie Sudue, owner of Mel Styles, a menswear boutique, recently received a loan from Rende Progress Capital Courtesy Rende Progress Capital

A racial equity lender in Grand Rapids recently gave loans to a menswear store and a bakery.

Grand Rapids-based Rende Progress Capital (RPC) said last week that it provided loans to two Black-owned startup businesses from its new Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation-backed fund for early-stage excluded entrepreneurs.

The funds, amounts not disclosed, were approved for Archie Sudue, owner of Mel Styles, a menswear boutique at 315 S. Division Ave. in downtown Grand Rapids; and Stephanie Dolly, owner of Dolly’s Delights, a startup bakery currently operating at Prep Space, at 1355 Judd Ave. SW in Wyoming.

“These are two entrepreneurs of color who persevered through barriers to conventional capital due to racial bias and market realities,” said Eric Foster, RPC co-founder, chair and managing director. “They are also experiencing growth, which we look to maximize as a result of our loans.”

Mel Styles

Mel Styles is a menswear store with a mission to “inspire young men to dress well by providing affordable custom fitted men’s suits.” The business also offers personal styling, wardrobe analysis, fashion maintenance and bespoke services.

Sudue, a graduate of the business training program SpringGR, which is an RPC partner, won $1,000 from a 2017 SpringGR pitch competition and $5,000 from Start Garden in May 2019. He received a $10,908 retail innovation grant from the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority in October 2019, which is helping to cover the rent at his storefront. The rest of his business is self-funded.

“As an immigrant with a dream and passion for business, he has brought his work to life in Michigan,” Foster said. “We thank the staff and loan committee for their commitment and work to approve Mel Styles with the racial equity-focused small business lending needed to help Archie’s business thrive.”

Sudue said the business technical assistance and the loan he received from RPC are both invaluable.

“The RPC loan is helpful during these uncertain times with COVID-19, and I can continue and finish the renovations to my storefront and continue to meet the needs of my customers,” he said.

Mel Styles will use the flexible-term loan and line of credit for inventory, sewing supplies, rent, website rebuild, billboard advertising, social media advertising and providing attire to social media influencers and brand ambassadors.

Dolly’s Delights

Dolly is a 2017 graduate of SpringGR. She launched Dolly’s Delights as a custom-ordering business out of her home in 2016, offering desserts such as cheesecake, pies, cakes, pudding, cake jars, cupcakes and more.

After outgrowing her home and then the Downtown Market Incubator Kitchen, Dolly operated as an incubator tenant inside Cookie Chicks in Comstock Park before moving to Prep Space.

With the help of this loan, Dolly’s first, she said she will be able to “breathe and finally have some help (to) prepare for the next steps and level.”

She plans to use the loan for commercial kitchen space rent; staffing; and licensing, permits and insurance for her planned push freezer cart for mobile treat sales.

“Ms. Dolly has become well-positioned to fulfill her detailed business plan and fledgling growth in a targeted market and demographic that also has needs for vegan and natural product bakery goods,” Foster said.

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