October 6, 2022
Vice President, Small Business Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Despite expanding small businesses and entrepreneurship in the United States, the country still faces a gap for minority business owners. Fortunately, several businesses have developed programs to support underrepresented entrepreneurs and help them seize growth opportunities.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s third annual Equality of Opportunity Initiative (EOI) Summit, Tom Sullivan, the Chamber’s Vice President of Small Business Policy, spoke with leaders of organizations whose work is devoted to developing the growth of traditionally-underrepresented entrepreneurs for a stronger, more inclusive economy.
Inclusive Entrepreneurship Requires Investment and Opportunity
In traditional systems and programs, minority entrepreneurs have not always had the same access to resources as non-minority business owners. To help combat this disparity, particularly for Black and Latinx business owners, EY launched its Entrepreneur Access Network program.
“We recognized that there were major things missing [for minority entrepreneurs]: capital [...] capacity building [...] and connections or access,” explained Jackie Taylor, Executive Sponsor of EY’s Entrepreneurs Access Program. “Our Entrepreneur Access Network is a national program where we work with Black and [Latinx] business owners to grow and scale their businesses.”
“We made a commitment of $4 billion to generate that much over the next five years for our [...] diverse firms [...but] we didn’t want this to just be a number,” said Yvette N. Stevens, Vice President of Economic Inclusion at Gilbane. “We wanted to ensure this was [the way] we do business and to ensure that contractors are getting those opportunities on all of our projects.”
Building Relationships Allows Diverse Businesses to Grow
Investment and opportunity are critical to the growth of minority businesses. One way to open these doors is through developing intentional relationships with other professionals.
“One of the things we did in [the New Jersey Black Chamber of Commerce] was making sure there were deliberate connections being made between the members who were part of the cohort and [Chamber leaders],” Taylor said. “[The members] understood the value [of] making connections and maximizing those relationships.”
“Think about it this way: When you get your hair done ... you don’t just trust anybody; you want to go to the people that you know. And in construction, a lot of the times, it’s the same way,” added Stevens. “We have to be intentional about [giving] other contractors an opportunity ... so we can build those relationships and [help] companies to grow.”
A Lesson for Entrepreneurs: Know Your Business to Maximize Success
Having worked with multiple cohorts and supporting them through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, Stevens and Taylor shared this piece of advice to small business owners: know your business.
“Know your business and be able to articulate that to others to make sure that you can sell yourself well,” Stevens advised. “When you’re on the job, do the job well, and make sure that folks understand that.”
If you’re thinking of joining an entrepreneurship program in support of that goal, Taylor recommended carefully considering which one makes the most sense for your business — for example, a mentorship-based program, a financially-based program, or a combination of both.
“Be thoughtful around the value that you are going to get from the program prior to engaging, and make it an overall plan that you have for your business,” she said. “The programs [take] a lot of time, [so] ensure that you’re intentional about how you manage your time.”
From the Series