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According to the Small Business Administration and the Census Bureau, Black entrepreneurs own 2.6 million businesses in the U.S. as of 2012. Black-owned businesses make up almost 10% of all companies, and 46% of black entrepreneurs are women — the highest percentage compared with other demographics.
Despite the prevalence of Black-owned businesses, Black entrepreneurs face steep financial challenges. Securing loans, for example, can prove more difficult for Black business owners than for white entrepreneurs. Many black entrepreneurs must resort to savings, credit cards, and loans from friends and family to gather capital, placing their personal finances at risk.
Black-owned businesses make up almost 10% of all companies, and 46% of black entrepreneurs are women
The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated these disparities even further. Most black-owned small businesses fall into industries like retail, food, and other social services that thrive on in-person contact. As a result, lockdowns and closures hit Black-owned businesses particularly hard. Black-owned businesses also received lower percentages of COVID-19 relief than white-owned businesses.
The organizations listed below offer a wealth of resources for Black entrepreneurs, including funding, education, and robust networking opportunities. Black entrepreneurs considering higher education, such as an MBA, can also qualify for various financial aid opportunities.
Black Girl Ventures
Under the leadership of computer scientist and entrepreneur Shelly Bell, Black Girl Ventures (BGV) provides funding for tech-enabled businesses earning less than $1,000,000. Past beneficiaries have worked in diverse industries such as wellness, beauty supplies, travel rental services, and career coaching.
Black or brown female entrepreneurs may participate in pitch competitions where the audience donates money to vote for their favorite businesses. Each business owner presents for three minutes and takes questions from a panel before the final vote. BGV describes the structure as a cross between Shark Tank and Kickstarter. All participants gain access to capital and networking resources.
Since 2016, BGV has raised over $2,000,000 and funded over 130 women through their pitch competitions. The organization also supports entrepreneurs through a nine-month fellowship program in leadership, corporate mentorship opportunities, and an active online community.
BGV has partnerships with NIKE and Equilibria, and has been featured in Forbes, Good Morning America, and Entrepreneur Magazine.
A venture capital firm located in Atlanta, Vertical 404 invests between $150,000-$450,000 in U.S.-based businesses with a Black, Latino/a, or female founder. The firm focuses on companies that use cloud-based technology to promote advancements in work, finance, health, and media. To qualify for funding, companies must agree to a diversity hiring agreement, hold c-corp status, and demonstrate a three-month recurring revenue of $10,000.
Vertical 404 also offers a 10-week Accelerator program for early-stage business owners. The program covers in-depth strategies for customer acquisition, marketing, and sustainability. Participants have access one-on-one coaching, fundraising assistance, and community access resources. Entrepreneurs looking for a virtual option can consider V404 Academy, a self-guided online course covering best practices for launching a business.
Business owners and CEOs can take advantage of other educational offerings, including tech bootcamps and workshops in data analytics, machine learning, and search engine marketing. Vertical 404 also provides networking opportunities to strengthen relationships between people of color in the tech industry.
At MORTAR, aspiring entrepreneurs can learn how to confidently launch their businesses. Through the 15-week Entrepreneurship Academy, Cincinnati-based cohorts engage in a curriculum that emphasizes business management. The course covers business topics through various learning styles, including guest speakers, collaborative activities, videos, reflections, and mentorship meetings.
MORTAR's teaching style prioritizes cultural competency. Their core audience is primarily Black and women entrepreneurs. MORTAR graduates can participate in an 18-month alumni program that includes business consulting, workshops, funding opportunities, and marketing strategy. Business owners can also sell products on Mortar's online boutique or in person at the organization's pop-ups.
MORTAR maintains relationships with the University of Cincinnati Law School, Providum, SCORE, and Crowd or Camera Communications Consulting. These local partnerships provide low-cost legal assistance, business writing, PR training, and mentorship opportunities to students.
The Black upStart
The Black upStart runs innovative educational opportunities for Black entrepreneurs. The organization teaches business fundamentals and encourages community building among students and faculty. To qualify, applicants need a product-based business or idea, though the organization occasionally supports service businesses.
The Black upStart's Skillhouse U program accepts aspiring entrepreneurs or emerging professionals whose businesses make less than $50,000. Students come together in 10-person cohorts to learn how to build their wealth and assets. Courses cover monetizing skills and developing a sales strategy; seeking investors, handling paperwork, and forming an LLC; investing in the stock market; and creating a financial plan.
The program also covers the basics of crowdfunding, and each student receives individualized coaching. Focused night classes provide training on specific topics, which is streamed for free through Instagram Live. Other educational opportunities include Black entrepreneur bootcamps and a kidpreneur program for boys in grades 3-5.
Black upStart's faculty include professors, government affiliates, and experienced business owners in diverse industries that produce beauty products, clothing, and consulting services.
The Coalition to Back Black Businesses
The Coalition to Back Black Businesses supports Black-owned businesses through multi-year funding opportunities and training. The initiative aims to award 300 grants per year. Corporate sponsors include founding partner American Express, AIG Foundation, Stanley Black and Decker, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
In 2020, founding members created a $5,000 grant to help Black business owners suffering from financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grant applicants must be Black individuals who own at least 51% of a small business in an economically vulnerable community. About 5% of grantees can qualify for additional funds up to $25,000.
Black entrepreneurs can also participate in a mentorship program and other educational offerings. The Coalition to Back Black Businesses provides a wealth of online information, including articles, fact sheets, and guides covering various business topics.
The National Minority Supplier Development Council
The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) supports minority business enterprises (MBE) of all sizes by promoting MBE business opportunities and integration into supply chains. The NMSDC provides educational opportunities, organizes collaborations between corporate members, and actively seeks out buyers to work with MBE.
The NMSDC welcomes Black, Asian, Latino, and Native American corporate members. Headquartered in New York City, the NMSDC partners with 23 regional affiliate councils. With almost 1,500 corporate members, the organization offers extensive educational programs and networking opportunities that include conferences and seminars.
Sponsored by Chase for Business, the Advancing Black Entrepreneurs program offers free digital workshops that cover topics like navigating cash flow, growing your business, and addressing the challenges of COVID-19. The NMSDC also provides scholarships and networking opportunities for MBE owners, including the global link program for members looking to expand international distribution.
Companies pledging to support MBE inclusion and growth include Denny's, Google, Honda, UPS, and Wells Fargo.
Feature Image: Shannon Fagan / The Image Bank / Getty Images
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