New Report: Closing the Racial Wealth Gap by Investing in Entrepreneurs of Color


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Small businesses owned by people of color in communities that have experienced redlining and systemic disinvestment are more likely to succeed when they have access to community-centered, culturally relevant support according to a new report by the Greenlining Institute on the People of Color Small Business Network. 

The report outlines findings and considerations from the POC Small Business Network, a program led by the Greenlining Institute, and people of color-led community based organizations, the Alliance for Community Development, and Uptima Entrepreneur Cooperative in partnership with the City of Oakland. The program was launched in 2021 to support 20 small businesses that identified as Black, Latinx, or immigrants from East Oakland, a historically redlined the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Starting a small business can be a great way to build wealth for families while also investing in your local community.  However, entrepreneurs of color face higher barriers with far less support than their white counterparts. This is in addition to decades of systemic racism perpetuated by practices like redlining and visible in the longstanding racial wealth gap in the country.” said report author Mercedes Gibson, Senior Program Manager for Economic Strategy at the Greenlining Institute. “Our work in Oakland talking to business owners, and engaging with the community has informed our approach to be collaborative, trauma-informed and community centered. Always.,” she continued.

Through a dynamic model that centered community needs and priorities, the POC Small Business Network pilot specifically set out to make Oakland’s small business and entrepreneur ecosystem more accessible by working with community based organizations to provide business coaching, technical assistance, and grant funding.

Findings from the POC Small Business Network pilot outlined in the report include:

  • Access to timely, non-debt capital is highly beneficial and provided an opportunity for participating Black and Latinx entrepreneurs to stabilize their finances and make investments in their businesses.
  • In-person outreach was the most effective means of recruitment for this program.
  • One-on-one support is incredibly effective at addressing specific knowledge and skill gaps for under-resourced entrepreneurs according to feedback from program participants. 
  • Latinx-owned businesses are more likely to experience challenges related to technology gaps and language barriers, therefore service providers must deploy a “place-based” approach to engagement. This involves meeting entrepreneurs where they are through engagement such as phone calls, block walks, and on-site business visits. 
  • More application support is required from business funders and government bodies to narrow funding gaps. Without free, individual application support for funding and licensing applications, we can expect racial inequities to persist.

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