RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With more than 25 years of nonprofit management experience, Floyd E. Miller III is working to provide economic solutions for small businesses throughout the greater Richmond area.

As President and CEO of the Metropolitan Business League, Miller has overseen the formation of various programs to support local entrepreneurs. Although he says resources and assistance were needed before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the nonprofit’s presence has only become more imperative as the economic effects of COVID-19-related restrictions have trickled down to the Richmond community.

Members of the Metropolitan Business League volunteer at the Historic Evergreen Cemetery. (Photo: Metropolitan Business League)

For more than a year, the greater Richmond region has undergone tremendous change, and as a leader with the Metropolitan Business League, Miller has been at the center of it. That’s why he has been named as an honoree in the 2021 Richmond History Makers & Community Update Program for demonstrating innovative economic solutions.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were already looking at innovative ways to do things,” Miller said. “We were looking at how to provide grants to businesses because we know 42% of businesses fail due to the lack of cash flow. We were already looking at ways to provide online resources and training for our business owners.”

Miller says the pandemic only sped up the rate at which the organization needed to meet these needs.

The membership organized provides resources to small business owners with disabilities. (Photo: Metropolitan Business League)

Over the course of the past year, the Metropolitan Business League was able to create the We Care RVA Rebuild Project, in partnership with Venture Richmond, LISC Virginia and ChamberRVA. The project provided two rounds of grant funding to more than 100 small, women- and minority-owned businesses in the region.

“It was important for us to expand our services, focus on our mission statement, and produce bigger outcomes,” Miller said. “That’s an opportunity for us to provide support to small business owners impacted by COVID-19 and the most recent social justice demonstrations here in the City of Richmond. So the We Care RVA Rebuild Project is a $1.5 million relief fund that we’ve created to give out grants to businesses during these unprecedented times.”

While Miller says this is the project he is most proud of since assuming joining the organization in 2017, he says he was also drawn to help the young people in the City of Richmond, which is why the nonprofit now has a youth entrepreneurship program.

The nonprofit engages students through its youth entrepreneurship program. (Photo: Metropolitan Business League)

“I noticed that there was a trend for millennials and Generation X and Generation Z to be entrepreneurs, and it was something that was near and dear to my heart,” Miller said.

With a Master’s degree in education, Miller says he knew it was important to develop a comprehensive program that could continue to provide support for students. Working with Richmond Public Schools, the Metropolitan Business League is trying to help youth in the City of Richmond transition to life after high school.

Under Miller’s leadership, the nonprofit is not only providing support for Richmond students, but also veterans and people with disabilities. It all harkens back to the founding of the organization, which happened in 1968 at the hands of four local residents.

The youth entrepreneurship program offers in-school and after-school resources. (Photo: Metropolitan Business League)

“They started the Metropolitan Business League specifically to support African American businesses,” Miller said. “At that particular time, during the 60s, those businesses weren’t able to join membership organizations like the Chamber and other membership organizations.”

From the beginning, Miller says the nonprofit’s goal has been to act as a support system for small business owners who need it most, and that’s initially what attracted him to the organization.

“I have a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice,” he said. “I thought I would be working for the FBI, something in law enforcement, and I actually did work in law enforcement for a while. But as I worked in law enforcement, I realized the importance of doing something that was a little more proactive than reactive.”

Miller says he felt that, in working in the nonprofit sector, he would be able to address the problems he sees happening in the African American community, such as poverty and a lack of education opportunities.

The nonprofit focuses on helping women- and minority-owned businesses in the Richmond area. (Photo: Metropolitan Business League)

“Especially over the last year, we have had a tremendous impact on the business community,” Miller said. “We have given out over $400,000 in grants to small businesses impacted by COVID-19 and the most recent social justice demonstrations. We continue to provide resources and training to help those businesses pivot during these unprecedented times.”

Such resources have helped to prepare local entrepreneurs to make necessary changes and seek further assistance.

“We were able to provide virtual training on how businesses can go about getting SPA loans through the government, PPP loans, and so getting the information out early was important to us,” he said. “I’m very proud that we’ve been able to provide over 650 businesses with workshops and virtual training.”

But Miller says he has not made an impact on Richmond’s small business workforce alone. He credits the Board of Directors for their hard work and drive to provide technical assistance, legal assistance, marketing, and website help to local business owners.

“As a business owner, you need that support, and sometimes, that word of encouragement and you need that resource, that information given out to you,” Miller said. “That’s what we do for the business owners here in Richmond, Virginia.”