Presenting the Digital Development Project

Maryville is helping entrepreneurs of color in St. Louis develop new skills and navigate the demands of running a business online.

Maryville University announced the Digital Development Project, a new initiative to help St. Louis small business owners of color grow their businesses online to meet the demands of a digital-first world that has been accelerated by the pandemic. The Digital Development Project will leverage Maryville’s legacy of aiding individuals in rapidly acquiring new knowledge and skills through online learning and upskilling.

The Digital Development Project was created to address the widening digital skills gap among small business owners of color, who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and already face systemic barriers to accessing financing and business resources.

To identify local small business owners in sectors most impacted by the pandemic, such as retail, restaurant, and personal services industries, Maryville partnered with five community advocacy organizations in St. Louis, including:

  1. Greater St. Louis Inc.
  2. Heartland St. Louis Black Chamber of Commerce
  3. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis
  4. St. Louis Minority Business Development Agency Business Center
  5. Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis Women’s Business Center

“Providing access and opportunity to a high-quality education for underserved populations has always been central to Maryville’s mission,” said Maryville University President Mark Lombardi, PhD. “In collaboration with our esteemed community partners, the Digital Development Project extends our impact into the small business community, empowering and providing entrepreneurs of color with the digital expertise and skills they need to thrive in today’s innovation economy.”

This fall, participants will receive access to a 10-week small business-focused digital marketing training program, industry certifications, and professional advising at no cost. Additionally, experts recommended by each organization will serve as business advisors, providing guidance on e-commerce, acquiring loans, business skills, and more.

The fully online program will be taught by industry experts and supplemented with virtual mentor-led sessions. In addition to receiving practical training on key technologies, participants will learn techniques to increase their businesses’ online reach and audience size.

Covering topics such as search engine optimization, brand development, and marketing automation with HubSpot, the program will ensure participants have the foundation needed to succeed. By the end of the program, participants will have the opportunity to build a strong understanding of e-commerce, digital marketing channels, analytics, measurement platforms, strategies, and tactics.

While the inaugural Digital Development Project will serve and support small business owners of color in the St. Louis region, Maryville is evaluating plans to roll out the program nationally following the pilot launch this fall.

“We will support and digitally reskill small businesses owners who are based in Maryville’s native St. Louis with the introductory Digital Development Project, but the work doesn’t stop there,” said Laraine Davis, vice president for community and government relations of Maryville University. “Following launch, Maryville aims to take the program to the national stage and help small business owners of color across the nation.”

To learn more about the Digital Development Project, partner organizations, and participants, visit

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