RPC funds DJ, partners with Miller Johnson to offer pro bono legal services

RPC said the loan to Steven Bryant, owner of DJ Blaze LLC, is part of the firm’s RACE4Progress loan fund established to help entrepreneurs of color meet the challenges of business during COVID-19. Courtesy Rende Progress Capital

Rende Progress Capital issued its first loan to an entertainer and formed a partnership with a local law firm to offer pro bono legal services.

The Grand Rapids-based racial equity lender Rende Progress Capital (RPC) said Tuesday that it made a loan to Steven Bryant, aka DJ Blaze, in Grand Rapids and will be offering legal services to current and future loan customers free of charge through Miller Johnson’s Project Giveback.

RPC said the loan to Bryant, owner of DJ Blaze LLC, is part of the firm’s RACE4Progress loan fund established to help entrepreneurs of color meet the challenges of business during COVID-19.

“RPC appreciates that amid a time of challenge that a still ever-present COVID-19 environment brings, we can play a role in equipping businesses that entertain the market,” said Eric Foster, co-founder, chair and managing director of RPC. “Throughout countless decades, many communities of color and diverse cultures have integrated business and entertainment to realize profit, promoting community and providing others with an outlet for spiritual, emotional and physical self-care.

“To that end, we are pleased to share another new RPC racial equity-focused small business loan customer — and first customer within our portfolio specializing in entertainment — DJ Blaze.”

Established in 2008, DJ Blaze entertains the Grand Rapids community through weekend DJ services for weddings and parties.

Since the onset of COVID-19, Bryant has not been able to continue his DJ services due to restrictions. More than 30 of his shows were canceled, and he had to lay off his employees. In addition, the impact of COVID-19 on some of his family members took an emotional toll.

Bryant said in light of the fact he was unable to access other funding, the RACE4Progress loan means “everything” to him.

“It will help me get back on track, get new customers, and enhance marketing and advertising to help in this time and, hopefully, move to the next level of my business,” he said.

RPC also announced on Tuesday its partnership with Miller Johnson to offer legal services free of charge to current and future RPC loan customers. Miller Johnson attorneys will provide support to RPC customers on corporate, tax, real estate and environmental, employment, and litigation matters, including COVID-19-related legal issues and Paycheck Protection Program loan issues.

“Project Giveback is intended to serve as part of the firm’s response to the numerous cultural and political events that we have witnessed and participated in throughout 2020 and into 2021,” said Stephen van Stempvoort, co-chair of Miller Johnson’s pro bono committee. “Miller Johnson has played a key role in our communities’ response to the COVID crisis, and many firm clients have commented on the excellent and valuable work that arose out of the team-based initiatives that Miller Johnson rolled out in response to the pandemic. Project Giveback is intended to build upon those experiences and leverage Miller Johnson’s resources in a way that will enable us to continue to serve our communities.”

Founded in 1959, Miller Johnson is a full-service firm providing legal counsel to businesses and individuals in corporate, employment and labor, litigation, employee benefits, and private client representation from its offices in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Detroit.

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