Woman talking to business colleagues outside
In recent years, the public and private sectors have worked together to help promote inclusive economic growth in the United States. — Getty Images

The “American Dream” typically describes the belief that all are welcome to create a better life for themselves, their families, and future generations in the United States. However, not all Americans have historically had access to the same opportunities to make that dream a reality.

In recent years, both the public and private sectors have worked together to help promote inclusive economic growth in the United States. This collaboration has proven beneficial for our nation’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, as it allows traditionally underrepresented groups of small business owners to seize growth opportunities that bolster both their local and national economies.

During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s third annual National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, leaders in the business community shared their insights on how the business community can close opportunity gaps and develop inclusive growth for entrepreneurs.

Offer ‘boots and straps’ to minority entrepreneurs

Don Cravins Jr., Minority Business Development Agency (MDBA)’s Under Secretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development, expressed optimism that leaders from both sides of the aisle are coming together to support an inclusive economy.

“We’re going to be a more resilient nation if we work together and [ensure] that everybody has an opportunity to pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” said Cravins. “But for so long, so many people have not had boots and not had straps, [...] so to see this commitment gives me some real hope.”

To this end, many businesses are actively committing to offering those “boots and straps” to minority-owned businesses. For example, EY’s Entrepreneur Access Network program aims to offer three dimensions of support for inclusive growth: capital, capacity building, and connections.

“Our Entrepreneur Access Network is a national program where we work with Black and [Latinx] business owners to grow and scale their business,” said Jackie Taylor, Executive Sponsor of the Entrepreneur Access Network. “There’s curriculum [as well as] connectivity to partners and leaders within the firm to function as one-on-one advisors [who are] coaching them, mentoring them, [and] making connections to industry executives to join the supply chain.”

[Read: How (and Why) to Get Certified as a Minority-Owned Business]

Meet entrepreneurs where they are, then connect them with the appropriate resources

Offering mentorship and growth opportunities can help minority entrepreneurs reach their full potential — so long as you meet them where they are, said Yvette N. Stevens, Vice President of Economic Inclusion at Gilbane Building Company.

“We want to make sure that we’re not pushing folks further along than maybe they are, [and that] we’re not stifling their growth [either],” Stevens explained.

And if your personal resources don’t align with someone else’s needs, keep in mind that your network can be just as valuable an asset. According to Stevens, Gilbane’s Rising Contractors program doesn’t just provide direct mentorship to entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, it also connects members to other organizations and firms that can offer more targeted support.

Know your own business to maximize success

If you are a minority entrepreneur looking to grow your business, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to know your business.

“Know your business and be able to articulate that to others,” Stevens advised. “When you’re on the job, do the job well, and make sure that folks understand that.”

And if you are considering joining an entrepreneurship program in support of that goal, take the time to research and consider which one makes the most sense for your business. For example, some programs focus on mentorship, others on financial support, and others a combination of both.

“Be thoughtful around the value that you’re going to get from the program prior to engaging, and make it an overall plan that you have for your business,” recommended Taylor. “The programs [take] a lot of time, [so] ensure that you’re intentional about [it].”

[Read: Resources to Help You Grow Your Minority-Owned Business]

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CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Published October 12, 2022