Many people know that there is a racial wealth gap, but most do not understand that the same systemic issues perpetuating a wealth gap are also widening a digital divide.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 36% of Black households lack computer ownership and broadband subscription. When compared to White, Hispanic, and Asian households the digital divide couldn’t be more clear. Longstanding inequities impede access and connectivity rates in society that affect minorities and low-income families.
Technology is pervasive and integral to our everyday lives. Yet many Americans are boxed in as consumers or locked out entirely because they lack access to hardware or education on how to produce online.
Johnny Bailey is working to solve that as D.C.’s Grow with Google Digital Coach. The digital coaches program is a national initiative to provide free digital skills training and coaching to Black and Latinx small business owners so they can harness the power of technology and thrive online. Johnny has coached founders who’ve gone on to be listed in the Forbes 1000 list, secure millions in venture capital funding, and establish distribution partnerships with big-box retailers.
Bailey’s focus: education and access.
Johnny Bailey facilitates workshops, mentors business owners, and listens attentively to understand the needs and challenges of diverse business owners today while building intangible infrastructure to help nurture D.C.’s growing business community. “I bridge the gap between seasoned business leaders and burgeoning entrepreneurs,” he says, “I also work with community partners to broaden the reach of the program and ensure positive alignment with main street as a whole.”
Bailey feels that he has made a significant impact on the D.C. business community and the tech ecosystem at large in his brief time as a D.C. coach. “I don’t take as much time as I should to celebrate the wins, but if I had to run off some of my proudest moments, it would start with being able to assist thousands of underserved business owners through an unprecedented economic downturn,” Bailey recalls. Helping Black and Brown people process the pandemic situation, secure funding, and pivot to virtual during the era of COVID-19 is what he’s proudest of.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnnie played a lead role in the development of Grow with Google’s very first Black Business Summit in Washington, D.C.
As he looks forward, Johnny Bailey has his eyes set on establishing meaningful partnerships in the city with organizations like the National Museum of African American History and Culture, 202 Creates, the Small Business Administration, Broccoli City Festival, and The Menkiti Group.
“My annual goal is to train 2,000 CEOs and Founders each year while bringing at least 50 business leaders to speak, inspire, and share valuable insight,” he exclaims, “I aim to extend funding assistance to two DC-based conferences serving diverse business owners in the form of Grow with Google micro-sponsorship.”
Elevating viable businesses, amplifying Black voices, and steering talented founders toward the capital needed to scale is Bailey’s way of working to accelerate the Black economy.
When asked what role big tech companies should play in helping diverse founders, Johnny Bailey set the tone by asking an even better question: what are the needs of diverse founders?
He pointed to an impact report conducted by the Russell Center for Innovation. They paneled a few thousand Black business owners regarding their needs, and the response was resounding. Most entrepreneurs identified community, mentorship, and access to capital as their primary needs, followed by technical skills training, access to technology, and a safe space to work.
“If we know racial equity is inextricably linked to economic opportunity, the primary role big tech should play is allocating financial resources towards the advancement of Black business owners, startup founders, and job seekers. They should look to provide funding, business guidance, and marketing support. An investment in business ecosystems that provide Black business owners equitable access to resources and opportunities can unlock billions in annual GDP and aid in closing the racial wealth gap,” Johnny says.
He believes there is a fundamental question that tech leaders are asking, “Which side of history do we want to be on?” The answer to that question must be followed by big tech companies rising to the challenge of creating a more diverse and equitable landscape.
To black-owned businesses looking for scale, Bailey offers the following advice:
Technology is an incredible tool for modern-day business owners. The ability to reach and engage global audiences, automate processes, sell products and leverage data for decision-making is remarkable.
Seek out education that can help you make informed decisions.
Get in the right rooms with like-minded leaders looking to build – especially if your primary needs are networks, training, and access to capital. Black entrepreneurs tend to make decisions in the ideation stage that keep their businesses limited. We yearn for ownership, autonomy, and financial freedom, so we sometimes make big moves without clarity.
Focus on operations and profitability in the early stages.
You want to give yourself the financial runway to make mistakes and learn from them as you go. So do your homework, get yourself a proof of concept, and don’t feel pressured to leave your job until the success of your business demands that level of attention. The honeymoon phase of poetically “owning a business” can wane rapidly when your livelihood is at stake, perpetuating a cycle of struggling business practices.
As for where the Google Digital Coach sees himself five years from now, Bailey plans to focus on his goal of closing the racial wealth gap at the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship. Bailey’s nonprofit, ShineHard Family, aims to help 500 Black Americans increase their net worth by $20 million by the year 2025. In addition to his DE&I work in the tech sector, the 35-year old entrepreneur will also use his own company, Bailey Media, to bridge the digital divide by providing marketing and consulting services for under-resourced communities.
“I am certain that the next five years will be a defining installment to what I hope will amount to a lasting legacy,” says Bailey.
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