Minority-owned businesses and businesses located in distressed communities, are well positioned to revitalize their local economies. A recent study from the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City suggests that with the right resources, these businesses can play a major role in transforming their communities by significantly lowering unemployment rates.
That’s a big part of the reason the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity convened a panel discussion at the White House last month on the subject of inclusive entrepreneurship.
I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in this discussion alongside other small business support practitioners, thought leaders, and key stakeholders. We shared best practices and determined how collectively, we can improve outreach and better serve entrepreneurs of color through our business assistance efforts in order to yield high-impact outcomes.
The ideas generated by our conversation are currently being curated and compiled into a white paper. In the meantime, here are a few of my key takeaways from the discussion:
Better Awareness & Outreach – Many entrepreneurs are not aware of the services available to them in their own communities. In order to ensure that navigating the entrepreneurial ecosystem of a community is less challenging, business assistance organizations must seek to develop more efficient and effective strategies for connecting entrepreneurs to the right resources for their unique needs.
Keep The Entrepreneur At The Center – Entrepreneurs are extremely busy and routinely wearing multiple hats, so they have limited time available to commit to services and programs that don’t drive profitable growth. Support services should be streamlined and developed with the time limitations and specific needs of the entrepreneur in mind.
This Work Takes Expertise, Cultural Competency & Social Intelligence – Practitioners working with diverse entrepreneurs and designing programs and services should be experts at what they do, excellent relationship builders, self-aware and culturally intelligent. Small business support organizations should invest in professional development for their staff to hone these skills. In addition, entrepreneurs should have the opportunity to offer feedback on services provided.
Collaboration Is Critical – No single support organization can serve all of the guidance and capital needs of a small business. Organizations providing direct services to entrepreneurs in a local ecosystem should work collaboratively to more fully and efficiently serve the needs of small businesses. Moreover, services provided should be periodically vetted and evaluated to understand the collective impact and their effectiveness.
Cities Play A Vital Role – Cities can play a major role in creating the right educational, procurement and environmental conditions for inner-city small businesses to thrive and generate more jobs.
We Must Leverage Technology – There are countless free or inexpensive software services and apps on the market that are being underutilized by entrepreneurs of color. Entrepreneurs could consider MailChimp or 99designs for marketing and sales, QuickBooks, Bench or Shoeboxed for financial management, Kiva Zip for access to capital and Thumbtack for getting things done. Businesses can increase productivity and potentially increase market share by effectively leveraging these resources.
I’m looking forward to reading and sharing the final white paper and hope that public sector and/or non-profit organizations serving entrepreneurs will consider and implement the recommendations. I am also looking forward but to hearing feedback from diverse entrepreneurs in our community. How can the entrepreneurial ecosystem serve you better?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments below, or via email at [email protected].