You’d like to think you can count on your bae to treat you right, but not if you’re doing business with an outfit called Grant Bae. According to the FTC and the State of Florida, Grant Bae and its owner Treashonna P. Graham induce minority-owned small businesses to pay for grant writing and business consulting services with the false promise of “guaranteed” grants of between $25,000 and $250,000 – depending on how much people pay the defendants. The complaint also charges them with making false statements about funding through federal COVID-19 programs.
Styling herself as “The Grant Bae,” Florida-based Graham claims to “help minority small businesses eliminate the stress and headache of running a small business with the lack of capital.” Graham uses social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Clubhouse, to tout her purported “10+ years as an entrepreneur” and her “gift” for applying for grants. Her pitch to small business owners is persuasive. Graham “guarantees” that any minority-owned business will receive a minimum of $25,000 and claims to have secured $75 million in grants in 2021. She offers further assurances to business owners that her services come with a “money-back guarantee” and that they’ll get funds within five to seven days of a grant’s “closing” date.
But the FTC and the Florida Attorney General allege the defendants’ funding promises are false or misleading, as are the claims of securing $75 million in grants in 2021. According to the complaint, the defendants have provided money only to a select few people – social media influencers with large followings of potential Grant Bae clients and those closely related to them.
The lawsuit also charges that when Grant Bae customers don’t get the “guaranteed” cash within the advertised time period, defendant Graham turns to a smooth line of patter to string them along. For example, according to one of Graham’s Instagram Live videos, “If you are waiting on your July 19th grant, you better understand that that funding is coming. Do not be alarmed, do not be frustrated . . . . Everyone will be funded through the Grant Bae portal. I promise you that.” But by the time business owners learn the money isn’t going to materialize, the defendants won’t honor their “money-back” promise and it’s often too late to get refunds of the thousands of dollars people charged on their credit cards.
What’s more, Graham has represented to business owners that she would apply on their behalf for funds through the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. But the FTC and Florida AG say that in numerous instances, she never followed through.
By the way, just how did The Grant Bae set up her own business? By getting a COVID-related Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan for more than $8,000, getting a second PPP loan of $23,000 as an “independent contractor,” and then inducing at least 100 minority-owned businesses to pay her thousands of dollars in just a few months. In addition, Graham even deceived customers about her own background. According to the lawsuit, her last known employment was at a fast food restaurant – where she got into legal trouble for stealing cash deposits from that business.
The complaint alleges that the defendants have violated the FTC Act, the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, and the Florida Deceptive Unfair Trade Practices Act. A federal court in Florida has temporarily shut down the company and frozen the defendants’ assets.
Even at this early stage, the case serves as a reminder to small business owners that they, too, can be the targets of underhanded practices. Rather than paying for pricy consulting services, consider the free resources available from the SBA’s SCORE Business Mentoring Program. In addition, have you looked into free or low-cost counseling and training for minority-owned businesses available directly through the SBA or in partnership with historically Black colleges and universities across the country?
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