It’s no secret that companies owned by people from minority groups face uphill battles when it comes to starting and sustaining a business. We’re proud to share that Gateway’s own Shellie Berry is combining her passions for entrepreneurship and the Black community into a new program aimed at helping improve economic equity and close the wealth gap in Arizona’s Black communities.

Recent reports show that non-Hispanic Black business owners are half as likely to receive bank funding as non-Hispanic white owners. And despite starting businesses at 4.5x the rate of others, Black women in the United States make 45% lower median wages than white, non-Hispanic men. Together with several collaborators across Arizona, Shellie created the S.E.E. M.E. Program to provide more opportunities for local Black entrepreneurs and help them overcome these statistics. 

S.E.E. M.E. (Social and Economic Equity for Minority Enterprises) is the largest known grant in Arizona dedicated to Black-owned business growth and development. Shellie joined forces with Angela Garmon of ARG Cultivators Community and ARG Coaching & Consulting Group, along with several other local colleagues, to plan an 18-month program that supports, tracks, and elevates a small cohort of companies. Over 50 entrepreneurs applied from across the state, and 20 were chosen to receive $16,500 each as an investment in their businesses:

  • 4 Nineteen Education & Training – Davonna Willis
  • Andy’s Shoe Shine & Repair – Grace Foster (Gateway Bank customer)
  • Ascension Medical Technologies LLC – Antoine Jay Hutchins
  • Black Russian Label – Joanna de’Shay
  • Bubba Ganter Production – Leon Ganter
  • Chateau Tolbert LLC –  Shannon Tolbert
  • Desert Soul Media, Inc. – Calvin Worthen
  • Four-Three Technologies LLC – Michael Hamilton
  • House Of Donaldson – John Donaldson
  • House of Hope Residential Homes – Angela O’Connor
  • Kuttz Enterprizes – Jabarha Nichols
  • Million Dollar Teacher Project – Lloyd Hopkins
  • Polished Clean Company – Brandee Dunn
  • RevealED – Melodie Simmons
  • Right Way Automotive dba Meineke Car Care Center 2829 – LaVon Jackson Maccanico  (Gateway Bank customer)
  • Rue Law LLC – Chelsea Lynch
  • Sonic Productions, LLC d.b.a. SONICA – Dan Young
  • The HighFliers, LLC – Nancy Uko
  • Tish Times Enterprises – Tish Times
  • Your Favorite Things – Micah Phillips

SEE ME Cohort 2021In addition to receiving funding, participants completed a 6-week accelerator course, where they learned about a different business topic each week. Gateway Bank President James Christensen presented about banking and lending, and other local experts spoke to the group about sales and marketing, strategic business development, risk management, and more. Shellie and the program’s organizers will continue to follow the cohort and provide support for 18 months, as they apply what they learned, participate in monthly mastermind sessions, and root each other on.

“Before Gateway Bank was around, I owned my own business but did not receive what small business owners need from their bank,” Shellie says. “Today, I am so grateful for Gateway Bank. To be positioned to inform black-owned businesses of the immeasurable value of banking at a local, small business bank is redemption for my failed business. It is my way of giving businesses today the banking experience I wish I had back then. So, I value connecting black business owners to our award-winning, local community bank with our trustworthy team who truly invests in their success.”​

For more information on S.E.E. M.E., visit, or follow along on Facebook and LinkedIn