Minority-owned businesses have suffered tremendously during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in New York City. Insufficient loan approvals, ineligibility and low credit are contributing factors that exacerbated these small businesses attempting to survive this health crisis. Cherry Martinez, a New York radio DJ veteran, media personality and philanthropist, saw small businesses thriving online during COVID-19, as well as businesses that were not. “That is when it hit my heart; I want to give back,” she said. Martinez will host free radio advertising for minority-owned businesses on August 1st via FMHipHop.com. She is the creator of this media platform which streams music from the world of hip hop, trap, R&B, in addition to hip hop-related news and more.

Martinez said any Black and Brown business can apply, including those outside of New York City. “We don’t care if you promote your lashes, if you’re a mobile nail technician, your website, your podcast,” she emphasized. Martinez, who grew up in Boston, Mass., has lived and worked in the city for 20 years. She mentioned childhood challenges of figuring out what ethnicity described her best. She embraces being a Honduran Afro-Latina and empathizes with concerned minority business owners. According to a survey done by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, 85% of minority and women-owned businesses believe they will not survive for the next six months due to COVID-19.

“We feel that our initiative to give free advertising on our radio station will help minority-owned businesses a great deal,” said Jade Solomon, executive assistant to Cherry Martinez. According to Solomon, who is also the editor-in-chief for FMHipHop.com, the digital station launched in 2017. She shared the station’s average number of listeners––75,000 weekly and growing. “Our giveaway is centered on creating relationships and awareness,” she added.

“When you usually listen to the radio or streaming services, they’re so biased on who they play,” said Jasmine Igwegbe, a regular listener of FMHipHop. She expressed that the station plays songs other mainstream radio stations do not. “What I like about FMHipHop is that they don’t ignore other artists, especially ones that aren’t as popular.” Igwegbe expressed her enjoyment in the station broadening her awareness of different artists. She also mentioned that the station is open to accepting request from listeners. “FMHipHop is always looking to help people,” she continued. “They’re always looking out for the community and the culture.”

“We know many minority-owned businesses are struggling to stay afloat during this pandemic and we hope that this extra promotion can help send them the clientele they need,” said Solomon. Minority-owned businesses can enter for their chance to receive free advertising airtime by following FMHipHop’s official Instagram page. Next, the business must repost FMHipHop’s 53-second commercial, starring Martinez, on their Instagram page. After that, the business is directed to mention five other minority businesses under their post. Lastly, FMHipHop wants businesses to record and email a 30-second MP3-file commercial to the station’s email. “Once commercials are aired, we have no doubt that our listenership will reach out to the businesses that have entered and employ them for their services,” Solomon proclaimed.

Igwegbe believes FMHipHop’s free commercial contest is great for people who didn’t receive help during COVID-19. “They make it easy for a small-business to raise awareness of their brand,” she said.

The importance of social media during a health crisis, and as citizens protests to protect Black and Brown lives, is at an all-time high. Cherry Martinez understands how Instagram can be used as a powerful tool. “It’s helpful with getting people’s messages across and it builds awareness for whatever you are promoting,” she conveyed. “It’s a blessing. We’re in the information age and it’s working for people.” She also vocalized how online injustice videos are forcing more people to be held accountable. “Social media can act as instant court and persuade actions to be taken immediately.”

Jasmine Igwegbe also interned for Martinez during the conception of FMHipHop. She shared how Martinez and her staff care about people regardless of their status. “Cherry is always open to new ideas and always trying new ways to improve her brand and how her brand could help people.”

“Small business doesn’t mean you’ve been in business for five years,” Martinez expressed. “You could have just launched your business; I’m here to help everyone.” FMHipHop is currently accepting submissions. The station’s free radio promotions to support minority-owned businesses will air for 90 days.