May 25, 2022

StrategisChhr

Skillful Business Crafters

How Local Communities Can Support Black And Brown Business Owners

Susan Jacobson, President of Jacobson Strategic Communications, specializes in media outreach, thought leadership and crisis communications.

As business leaders, we must always heed the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” Let’s ask ourselves, what is history making us out to be? Have we moved the needle and advanced diversity, equity and inclusion as many of us publicly promised? Have we acted, or are we still reacting? Are we effectively communicating our actions to stakeholders? Are we focused solely on our own progress, or are we making contributions as corporate citizens and community partners?

I live in Philadelphia — a recognized global city of historic significance. Philadelphia is also where my business is based and where I’m currently serving as board chair of one of the largest local Chambers of Commerce in the country. It may be my home, but our nation’s first capital is a striking example of how to start building a community that fully supports Black and Brown businesses. There are lessons to be learned from how Philadelphia is being made by history today.

Attention

Despite representing the majority-minority population, Black-owned businesses are the lowest per capita, according to a 2020 report by a Philadelphia development corporation. Acknowledging the inequity helps identify the opportunities for redress. Robust and equitable recovery depends unequivocally on public commitment to Black-owned businesses.

In June 2020, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia launched the Recharge and Recover initiative informed by a cross-section of business leaders and research from McKinsey & Company to help Philadelphia bounce back from the pandemic more equitably positioned for long-term success. Among the five aspirational goals the group set out to achieve: positioning the region to become a place known for its support of Black, Brown and other minority-owned businesses.

More than 100 large public, private and nonprofit employers headquartered in Philadelphia joined the Chamber’s Diverse Procurement Collaborative to share best practices and implementation strategies to increase contracting and supplier diversity. Indeed, collaboration became the answer and solution to many questions leaders from every sector addressed. Chambers of commerce in the greater Philadelphia area representing African American, Asian American, Hispanic and LGBTQIA+ business owners and businesses formed the Diverse Chambers Coalition of Philadelphia to advocate for policies and resources to facilitate the growth of the region’s minority-owned businesses.

Business owners can bring more attention to these businesses in their own communities by using their position and influence to model, encourage and force change. For example, the nation’s first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute — which recently announced the first next-generation Covid-19 vaccine — launched an education and training program with the nation’s first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to expand life sciences research, job and entrepreneurship opportunities in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia City Council issued a declaration to promote patronage to Black- and Brown-owned businesses on Fridays in December, and the local tourism organization transformed empty shops into art installations created by local QBIPOC artists to highlight Black- and Brown-owned businesses adversely affected by the pandemic. And in a bold and admirable leadership move, when the head of the regional public transportation authority — one of the largest in the country — meets with potential vendors, if there is no diversity represented in the group, she cancels the meeting.

Allocation & Access

Winning a bid is of no use if a business doesn’t have a line of credit to begin the work. Overcoming the well-documented and very long and recent history of racial bias and discriminatory practices in private banking is paramount to cultivating an environment that supports investment in and growth of minority-owned businesses. Unblocking access also requires a combination of public and private effort.

In Philadelphia, the Growth, Resiliency, Independence, Tenacity (GRIT) Fund is an unprecedented loan program designed explicitly for Black and Brown businesses owners. Formed by a coalition of 30 financial institutions, the program will disperse $100 million in loans over four years. Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) will distribute the funds in a transparent effort to build trust among those who are skeptical of the banking industry.

Action Begets Actions

Advocacy and allyship are important but amount to nothing without results-driven action. Visible public and private support leverage greater change.

Philadelphia is one of only two cities in the country with public-private seed fund money dedicated to startups and is making global lists and top rankings for attracting entrepreneurs, especially in the fields of education, wellness and fitness, life sciences and real estate. Adding to Philadelphia’s appeal is the hefty amount of venture capital. Since May 2020, Philadelphia has seen an influx of funding for BIPOC business owners pledging to raise at least $300 million.

The managing partner of one of the local professional sports teams invested $10 million into a minority-owned commercial real estate and project management firm. The funding will help the firm accelerate growth and advance responsible community development and revitalization in underserved areas of Philadelphia. The announcement was covered by every major news outlet in the city. When businesses effectively and broadly communicate how they are making diversity and equity part of their not just long-term but permanent business plans, the message is loud and clear. Even better, the message resonates and creates an echo for others to hear.

Conclusion

Communitywide collaboration is critical to support Black and Brown business owners and advance substantive, sustainable change. Progress is made when large employers, public servants, nonprofits and community leaders representing every sector are collectively focused on racial disparities, resource allocation and access, and quantifiable action and accountability. It’s happening in Philadelphia and can happen in other cities around the country.


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https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2022/03/01/how-local-communities-can-support-black-and-brown-business-owners/