Dr. Brandi Rae Hicks - Serve University

serveuspotlightDr. Brandi Rae Hicks recently moved back to her hometown of Shaker Heights to become a caretaker for her parents and brought her successful business back with her. Dr. Brandi runs the Institute for Grantsmanship and Nonprofit Resilience at Serve University. Her work helps nonprofit leaders and business owners learn the tools they need to serve their communities more abundantly. The Institute provides assistance with grant and proposal writing, business and nonprofit consulting, and grant writing training.

Dr. Brandi grew up in Shaker Heights, attending Malvern School and eventually Shaker Heights High School. She went on to attend the University of Cincinnati and graduate school at Northeastern. She later moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and then, back home to Shaker. This is one of the rewards of owning a small business, she notes, “Time freedom allows me to be a caretaker for my parents.” We’re certainly thrilled she is able to bring her skills home and simultaneously care for her parents.

Providing services both in-person and virtually, Dr. Brandi has been teaching grant writing for 10 years. She has worked with organizations such as United Way and Jumpstart and even provides teaching through Facebook Live. There is so much accessibility involved with the services she provides and this is why she began this kind of teaching: “I created this as an affordable option for those who wanted to learn more about grants but had a full time job and part time passion that had to be funded. I started Serve U with a micro business grant!”

There certainly is a need for grant writing learning as well as an affordable option on how to access it. Though grant money does exist for nonprofits and small businesses, there are complicated application processes often associated with the grant in order to actually earn the grant money. This can deter small businesses from ever applying in the first place, or lack of familiarity with the grant writing application components might make a submission weaker. So, while a small business might qualify or deserve that grant, something as “simple” as the writing might not make that a reality. This is where someone like Dr. Brandi comes in.

“I help small businesses and nonprofits get grant ready and stay grant compliant. We work with all types of tax exempt organizations and small businesses.” Dr. Brandi and her team also helps consult small businesses, offering courses on starting a small business or nonprofit. She explains, “many small businesses don’t know that there are local resources out there to assist with grant writing to prepare to be eligible to apply. There are 30-day bootcamps we offer to get ready too.”

This type of learning goes hand in hand with the advice Dr. Brandi would give anyone wanting to start a small business: find a business 101 training, trainings on finances, accounting, your actual trader industry, and, of course, look for mentors in your space. We’d have to agree with all of these!

When we asked Dr. Brandi what the biggest challenges were when it comes to owning a small business, she states that scaling capacity when it comes to adding new staff can be challenging: “it really does depend on experience when it comes to philanthropy. It involves a lot of training and a learning curve.” There is so much that goes into grant writing. Wanting to pass that knowledge down to small businesses and nonprofits in an accessible and affordable way is admirable, and we’re excited to now have someone local to Shaker who can provide us with everything involving grant writing.

For more information, visit serveuniversity.org or email Dr. Brandi at hellostudent@serveuniversity.org.