The Northern California Small Business Development Centers and the Nor-Cal Financial Development Corporation want to help connect 1,000 Black-owned small businesses to $100 million in capital through the recently launched “The Inclusivity Project.”
According to Chris Horton, lead manager of The Inclusivity Project and president of the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce, the project aims to connect African Americans with all the required resources and capital they need to build their businesses. So far, 45 organizations have come on board to provide funding, with more to come.
The project was discussed last week in a podcast, “The Inclusivity Project: Advancing Opportunities for African American Small Businesses,” hosted by “Turning Point — with K. Patrice Williams.” Williams, a Solano County community leader, and CEO of BrandGovOutreach, fielded questions to Horton and to Elease Nicole, president of the Solano County Black Chamber of Commerce, and entrepreneur of Important Details, Inc.
Horton founded the Inclusivity Project after seeing in the media many Black small business owners struggling to keep their businesses afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the Inclusivity Project represents a knowledgeable hub of professionals who have access to business consulting firms. Each business need will be matched with the right partners.
Nicole said the pandemic affected Black businesses in diverse ways, providing an awakening of the lack of tools and resources in the Black community and access to capital. She stated that many African Americans didn’t qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses, the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), nor available grants. In some cases, Black Americans were unprepared and lacked relevant resources. If the paperwork filed didn’t use the correct language, it was pushed aside.
Nicole further explained that the pandemic also spotlighted disparities in how the Black community is receiving funding, emphasizing that when it comes to other minorities, African American history in the United States is different because of segregation. She pointed out that established entrepreneurs didn’t get funding either because of the matrix used, requiring modifications to laws and rules that are too steep for Black businesses to qualify. The Black community needs African-American descendants at decision-making tables when discussing issues that impact small Black businesses.
A solution Nicole offered is that the Solano Black Chamber of Commerce becomes a powerful resource to Black entrepreneurs by providing members with legal services, accounting and grant services, and a procurement officer. The chamber, Nicole said, should offer a staffed secretary who can help with the necessary paperwork.
She welcomes the chamber serving as a pilot for the Inclusivity Project, adding that many small businesses require funding for marketing services and staff.
Other resources for Black entrepreneurs include the Northern California Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Solano Small Business Development Center. However, Williams pointed out during the discussion that the Black community does not trust easily. I agree. Given African-American history in the U.S., the distrust is understandable, even trusting other Black people.
Williams added some entrepreneurs might require knowledge about developing a business plan or a profit and loss sheet. Some entrepreneurs may not know the best way to incorporate their businesses, including applying for funding.
The Solano Black Chamber of Commerce wants to be a trusted and valuable resource to Black entrepreneurs in Solano County, empowering them and offering some hand-holding.
Horton and Nicole encourage Black businesses to get on the list at theinclusivityproject.com. African Americans can build wealth through entrepreneurship, becoming million-dollar businesses one storefront at a time.
The full video of the forum can be viewed at facebook.com/kpatricewilliamsjd/videos/10159213667004704
— The Vacaville author is a social issues advocate. E-mail: email@example.com
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