African-American women are starting more businesses in the U.S. than nearly any other segment of the population, according to recent research from Guidant Financial and the Small Business Trends Alliance.
They're providing a road map for success for future generations, as the need and demand for more diverse businesses, services, and inclusion grows amid the changing racial and ethnic landscape of the country.
Quincy Dunlap is urging Black entrepreneurs to find their niche of excellence and nurture it.
“All of us have a particular niche or something that we do well," says the president and chief executive of the Austin Urban League, which helps African-Americans and other under-served populations in Central Texas build a foundation for social and economic equality.
“Get around people who will also mentor it, nurture it, and sponsor it," he advises.
The Austin chapter, one of some 90 Urban League affiliates nationwide, has been making these connections for more than 40 years.
The National Urban League, established in 1910, serves more than 1.7 million people annually through education, development, and civic engagement programs. Since establishing its Entrepreneurship Center program in 2006, the national organization has provided management counseling, mentoring, and training services to more than 60,000 businesses in 12 markets.
“These centers are designed to empower, educate and advance the Black entrepreneurship experience," Dunlap explains.
And help close one of the biggest gaps to business success.
Paying it forward
Access to capital remains a perennial challenge facing Black entrepreneurs, a systematic problem the private sector can help address.
“There has to be some strategic investment from the private sector and bureaucracy to change this narrative and outcome," says Dunlap, who knows funding is just part of the equation.
He wants to see the private sector foster more mentorships, sponsorships, and a greater exchange of intellectual capital.
He's also calling on more successful entrepreneurs to pay it forward.
“There are some guiding principles to your success that you need to share," Dunlap asserts.
An inflection point
The total number of Black-owned businesses in the U.S. has been in steady decline for years. Since 2012, the country has lost nearly 600,000 of them to about 2 million, according to U.S. Census data. That's a 21% drop.
During that same period, the country added more than 4.1 million businesses, a 15% increase.
“It's malicious, it's purposeful, and it's intentional to not invest in Black," Dunlap says. “There are no excuses. You're either doing it or you're not."
Indeed, the range of excuses for withholding support is narrowing, as the pandemic, much like the virus that caused it, has more adversely affected communities of color in health and business prosperity than their white counterparts.
Victories won't come easy, as evidenced by the recent passage to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.
It took Congress 156 years to solidify June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day.
The legislation, which finally passed both chambers on Wednesday, was partially sparked by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the killing of George Floyd and others by police, and the growing list of voter suppression measures in several states since the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Businesses of all sizes and scope can engage in and champion equity issues.
Breaking down communication barriers is key, Dunlap contends. Getting over that initial fear that prevents progress is the first step, he says. The next: finding Black allies who share the same ideals in promoting diversity and inclusion by investing in community-based programs and entities.
Returns on investment are ample.
“You get an ROI reducing your tax burden. You get an ROI diversifying your workforce," Dunlap says. “And you also get an ROI if your brand is recognized as a brand truly interested in the success of the whole of society."
Black excellence benefits businesses, society, and overall quality of life in the community, he argues.
“In the end, we will all be better off if everybody is equipped and has access to resources and opportunity."
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