6 Methods You Can Help Black Companies Lengthy-Time period
June 16, 2020 10 min read
In the months since George Floyd’s death, the country has reckoned with our legacy of racial inequalities. Many people have taken a close look at themselves and are trying to figure out how they can help. Black History Month begins today and this year – perhaps more than any other in recent history – people are looking for really effective ways to celebrate. Entrepreneurs are usually practical doers and problem solvers. So when a deep systemic problem is identified, business leaders look for solutions. And according to Connie Evans, the CEO and President of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, this is what makes entrepreneurs so valuable to the racial justice cause. “Entrepreneurs can help their local leaders think more creatively and entrepreneurially to solve some of the problems they see in their communities,” Evans told Entrepreneur.
Evans has advised governments, entrepreneurs and nonprofits for 25 years – from the presidential administration to the World Bank to the Senate’s Small Business Committee. She was the first black woman to be elected to the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and was also a member of the CDFI advisory board of the US Treasury Department. When we asked her how the business community could translate their beliefs into action, she had six suggestions.
1. Use your purchasing power to support minority companies.
Evans says, “Your readers should think about finding and supporting Black and Latinx owned companies with their consumer dollars. This is a very important thing that any reader can do. If you’re in a community where there aren’t a lot of minority-owned companies, or if you’re not sure where they are, there are black directories and organizations out there that can link you with black companies. “
We have listed some of them here.
2. Write letters to your national and local representatives.
“Your readers can also use their voices and pens to write to their representatives,” says Evans. “And I don’t just mean representatives of the Federal Congress. There are many regulations and laws at the state and local levels that pose real barriers to minority businesses. “
For example at the local level:
“Entrepreneurs and businesses with color are having a harder time entering new markets,” says Evans. “And all governments, whether local or state, have contract options. Often these contract options go to very, very, very large companies. So, you can petition your local or state government to break these large bundle contract programs to give smaller, black-owned businesses access. This is very important and can be done easily if there is will and demand. And there are examples of cities that have done this. “
Evans continues, “Another thing at the state and local level is removing the barriers to business licensing. In many places you have to jump through 50 different hoops and go to three different places and all of these things. These are just barriers for people without so many resources. “
At national level:
In general, it is important that your representatives in Congress understand that you care how the Small Business Administration decides which companies will receive capital. However, this is especially true for future rounds of economic finance.
“We have to give priority to companies with no more than 10 employees,” says Evans. “Companies that mostly belong to colored people – we’re talking about more than 90 percent – employ 10 or fewer people. Therefore, the SBA needs to remove regulations that allow first-come-first-serve funding [that goes primarily to bigger ‘small’ companies]. ”
Entrepreneurs can also tell their federal representatives that they disapprove of the SBA, which discriminates against small business owners with criminal records, which disproportionately affects business owners with color.
Related: A leaked powerpoint suggests the SBA is rejecting catastrophe loans …
3. Take stock of the diversity in your own business.
“Entrepreneurs are leaders by nature,” says Evans. “They can be community leaders and use their votes. But entrepreneurs are also entrepreneurs. And if we really want to change society, you shouldn’t take the first two measures I mentioned without also working for inclusiveness in your own business operations. Take a look at your supplier list. Is it diverse? Look at your employees. Are they diverse? Try to align your actions. Don’t be outraged by the injustice you discover without taking these issues seriously and appreciating the diversity and inclusion in your own operations. “
4. Donate your company’s services
“If anyone had any doubts, it is now clear that the entire world economy is moving into a much more digital market,” says Evans. “And some of these smaller, colored owned businesses have taken a much slower approach to digital presence and skill development.
“AEO has developed what we believe to be a comprehensive, relatively sophisticated solution to reach small business owners, including black business owners,” Evans continues. “Through our program called Main Street Rise, we have brought together partners like GoDaddy, Bench and Fanbank, all of whom have world-class technology solutions that help small businesses get up to speed quickly. With Main Street Rise, our partners offer these products and services Free services for small business owners in need.
“For example, Bench offers accounting services for entrepreneurs. Small business owners have lost so much revenue during shelter-in-place and many don’t know if they can afford to take out PPP or other types of credit. They need help with bookkeeping and keeping their books in order, and some of these companies just can’t afford it.
“We can help with that. We can also give them the opportunity to generate income through Fanbank in a program in which they can sell loans to their customers. So if they can open up, their customers can go ahead and get started.” We also have mentors who can help you figure out how to move in this environment and in the recession we are entering. So if your entrepreneurial readership has solutions that they believe can help small businesses, we’d love to talk to them about joining our partnership. “
5. Put on your entrepreneurial hat to find community solutions
“Entrepreneurs always think, ‘How do I solve problems? ‘And they can use that mindset to help their local leaders think more creatively and entrepreneurially to solve some of the problems they see in their communities,’ says Evans. “For example, during the lockdown, you might think, ‘Okay, you have restaurants that are closed and only have takeaway and roadside delivery, and you have entire communities where people are unemployed and have no food. They stand in rows of food that are wrapped around blocks. Why not take state dollars and give these restaurants grants to open up and feed the community? That way, restaurants can recruit people while satisfying the real need to bring nutritious food back into the communities. We need to become more entrepreneurial in how we use government resources and how they can be used to solve multiple problems and challenges at once. “
Related: Black-Owned Restaurants and Businesses You Can Support Now
6. Be strategic with your donations
“Often times, people think that charity is helping the homeless, education, and social services – and of course that’s all great,” Evans says. “But your readers may not realize that an important part of the business ecosystem for paint communities and paint business owners is these nonprofits that were founded to provide capital and trusted advice to businesses in underserved communities. These nonprofits need support, and there are a number of creative ways you can do that. “
Grants. “Many small businesses need grants to reopen – capital without the burden of borrowing and repayments. How will they pay for the new retrofitting required to reopen? Where does the money come from? You can’t borrow for it because your earnings are reduced, and even if you open with the retrofit, you may only have 50 percent or 25 percent of the occupancy that you used to have. For that people need grants.
“You can come to Main Street Rise if you have a grant to give to a specific business in your neighborhood or to a business that works with AEO,” says Evans. “We’re a national organization and have over 1,700 members, so if one of your readers says,” I want to support companies in my state, in my big city, or in my small town, “we can.
“We can direct resources to whatever geographic or socio-demographic parameter someone really wants to see to support their resources. Grants are a really important way the entrepreneurial ecosystem adapts to supporting black-owned, female-owned and entrepreneurial companies can engage with records, entrepreneurs in rural communities, Native American communities, and immigrant communities. “
Funds advised by donors. Some of your readers may have their own trusts, family foundations or something called a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF). When the new tax policy took effect under this administration, there were more opportunities for wealthy people to use this money for charity in order to obtain tax benefits. One of those “products” is, if you will, a DAF that they have set up – often with Fidelity. And you can think about using your DAF to support minority business ownership.
“For example, AEO just received a $ 10,000 contribution through Fidelity from a California business owner who wanted to support Main Street Rise. They took this money from their DAF and specifically said, “This is to help small businesses.”
“Chicago has a program called the Chicago Community Trust that uses your money to help support black-owned businesses or businesses in the community. This would be a charitable contribution that your readers could get a tax write-off for. Just another way to think about it. what you have in general can help. “
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