Press Release

Mastercard partners with Birmingham department of innovation & economic opportunity to launch Ascend Birmingham helping local businesses get digital

August 2, 2021 | Birmingham, AL & Purchase, NY

Support from Square, Accion Opportunity Fund and Sunrise by Lendio helps Birmingham small businesses advance digitally and drive online commerce 


With spend already declining in Birmingham pre-COVID, the decrease rapidly accelerated in Birmingham’s downtown and surrounding tracts because of the pandemic significantly impacting the city’s small businesses. Minority owned businesses in the region saw an outsized impact from the downturn and are a priority focus amidst recovery. Mastercard and the Birmingham Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity are working to address this with the introduction of Ascend Birmingham. The program is focused on helping local small businesses pivot to digital operations and thrive in an age of a more digitally engaged consumer. 

"The City of Birmingham is thrilled to partner with Mastercard on this key initiative, which will go a long way in reaching our goal of making Birmingham a hub for minority-owned small businesses," Mayor Woodfin said. "Allowing these businesses to flourish in digital spaces not only increases their reach but their creative potential as well. It's an incredible opportunity for our business community."

With support from Square, Accion Opportunity Fund and Sunrise by Lendio, Ascend Birmingham will provide education, tools and resources focused on building out an effective digital presence, accepting digital payments, growing and managing your business, gaining access to capital, and keeping your business and your customers protected. Participants in the program will also be provided a custom curated business kit that includes solutions such as a Square Reader for Contactless & Chip along with website development software, bookkeeping software and a professional bookkeeper from Sunrise by Lendio, advisory expertise from Accion Opportunity Fund, Mastercard cybersecurity and data insight solutions and other City-provided resources. Mastercard and the City of Birmingham have also partnered to deliver a city focused Digital Doors platform with always-on content and resources for local owners.

“We applaud the efforts of Mayor Woodfin and the Department of Innovation & Economic Opportunity to ensure the endurance of Birmingham-based small businesses and are proud to partner with the city so that owners have access to the tools and resources necessary to thrive in today’s digital age,” said Michael Froman, vice chairman and president Strategic Growth for Mastercard. “The resiliency and drive of small business owners is unprecedented and supporting their recovery is the single most important thing we can all do for economic and social vitality.” 

Birmingham-based small businesses interested in learning more and signing up for an upcoming Ascend Birmingham cohort can visit here. Mayor Woodfin and Mastercard will also recognize three Birmingham businesses selected to be part of the national Priceless campaign, which highlights creative businesses offering unique experiences for patrons. Ursula Smith, founder of the Ursula Smith Dance Co.; Evan and Eleny Christen, owners of Pinspiration Birmingham; and Tanesha Sims-Summers, founder and CEO of Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co. are the Birmingham honorees.

“Leveraging data-driven insights, we are partnering with the City of Birmingham to assess the impact of the pandemic on the local economy and help protect local communities and businesses that are most at-risk,” said Linda Kirkpatrick, president of North America for Mastercard. “With these insights we can engage our network of partners and prioritize investments in order to proactively build a foundation that fosters an equitable recovery.”

“As an entrepreneur, I have had to adapt to a number of obstacles and uncertainties. When confronted with a problem or difficult situation I never run, which cultivated my faith, resilience, courage and fortitude needed to thrive in life and business. Opening a new studio location, a month before the pandemic hit Alabama forced me to pivot to a digital platform. This allowed me to expand my reach from Florida to Germany,” said Ursula Smith, Owner of Ursula Smith Company.  

In Solidarity with Birmingham

As part of its In Solidarity initiative, Mastercard has embarked on a multi-city road show with Birmingham as the focus for the next stop. To support the region in helping close the racial wealth and opportunity gap for Black communities and business owners Mastercard and Blavity, Inc. the pre-eminent media resource for Black millennials, are partnering to launch a virtual discussion addressing a financial system that has systemically disadvantaged and excluded Black communities with a view to advancing opportunity and equitable growth in Birmingham. Speakers include: The honorable Randall Woodfin, Mayor of Birmingham, the Birmingham Office of Social Justice and Racial Equity, Rev. Arthur Price, Regions Bank and Morgan DeBaun, CEO, Blavity. 

Expanding digitally with customer experience and safety prioritized

Ascend Birmingham is part of Mastercard’s wider recovery efforts designed to support businesses and governments across the globe looking for resources to help better manage the health, safety and economic risks presented by the recent pandemic. Recovery Insights offers a set of tools, innovation and research that can provide some certainty today and support data-driven decision-making for a more digital tomorrow. More information on Mastercard Recovery Insights can be found here.

Media Contacts

Sarah Ely, Mastercard
+1 (914) 249-6714 |