NORTHFIELD – Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) has recently approved funding from its Small Enterprise Loan Fund to Deaf Friendly Biz LLC (DFB), a web-based directory of Minnesota’s deaf-friendly businesses, as well as a platform for such businesses to advertise to the Deaf community.
Deaf Friendly Biz (DFB) was formed by CEO Jamie Duncan to create an empowering marketplace for consumers within the deaf, hard of hearing, and signing community through educating businesses in Minnesota about how to offer a deaf-friendly customer service experience. Duncan, a child of deaf parents, has a lifetime of experience with the Deaf community and how to serve its members. She saw the opportunity to bring this expertise to the business sector, where she frequently noticed clients like her parents often didn’t receive as much information as other clients and consequently were less equipped when making decisions.
The directory is a listing similar to an online telephone catalog, and highlights symbols next to each listing to identify the ways in which the business is deaf-friendly. In addition, Duncan provides consulting to businesses wanting to become deaf-friendly, as well as workshops, relay call training, and visual communications in American Sign Language (ASL).
DFB’s launch in Minnesota is significant, considering the state is home to approximately 195,000 deaf individuals and 888,000 people who have experienced hearing loss. Duncan has launched DFB specifically in the Faribault area, where the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf serves over 170 individuals each year.
"We're pleased to help Jamie grow this business through our micro loan program," notes Tim Penny, SMIF President/CEO. "Deaf Friendly Biz will be a valuable tool in helping regional small businesses effectively cater to the diverse range of residents in our communities.”
SMIF provides a range of finance and management assistance services to start and grow businesses. To learn more, call Marcia Haley at 507-455-3215, or visit www.smifoundation.org. SMIF is an equal opportunity lender. This loan is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.