Celebrating Black History Month: 10 Ways to Support Black Entrepreneurship

Bernard J. Paprocki, US SBA acting regional administrator for the Atlantic Region, overseeing agency operations in NY, NJ, PR and USVI (Submitted photo)

During Black History Month, we celebrate the achievements of African Americans and recognize the central role they, as individuals and communities, contribute to the United States.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s role is to support entrepreneurs every step of the way to allow them to achieve their dream of owning a business while doing their part to ensure its success. This is an even more difficult mission as we continue to adapt to new circumstances brought on by COVID-19.

February allows us not only to celebrate the incredible contributions that Black-owned businesses make to their local communities and our national, regional and local economies, but to recommit to ensure they are part of our sustained American small business recovery.

We frequently hear from Black businesses of socioeconomic and capital funding challenges with starting and expanding a business. That’s why the SBA is committed to ensuring a fair and equitable recovery that provides access to small businesses in every community.

Our goal is to work with Black entrepreneurs to overcome these entrepreneurship challenges. The Biden-Harris Administration has committed to provide small businesses with the support they need throughout the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, especially ensuring minority- and women- owned businesses have fair and equitable access to small business relief programs.

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides resources specifically for these purposes. Here are the Top 10 resources that small business owners can utilize right now to continue their entrepreneurship journey:

  1. Funding: Starting or scaling up a business requires capital. SBA’s Lender Match connects entrepreneurs with financial institutions that provide small business loans backed by the agency. SBA-Guaranteed loans can be used for most business purposes, including operating capital and financing equipment and other long-term fixed assets. However, discuss the terms for each program with your lender up front.

For the Paycheck Protection Program, the PPP Lender Lookup Map also locates the closest participating lender near you.

  1. Business Plan Development and One-on-One AssistanceSmall Business Development Centers offer free, one-on-one counseling, low-cost training services, market research and more. Since March of 2020, SBDCs also assist small business owners in gathering necessary paperwork and filling out PPP and Economic Injury Disaster Loan applications; most SBDCs are taking virtual appointments as we continue to socially distance. Find the one closest to you here.
  2. Mentoring: SBA’s resources, such as SCORE, provide free mentoring and education to business owners to learn from others who have been through the entrepreneurship journey. SCORE is a network of thousands of volunteer business counselors around the country who mentor and educate small business owners. Currently, they provide free one-on-one virtual online counseling in multiple languages as well as educational workshops.
  3. Scaling Up Your Business and Adapting During COVID: SBA’s Emerging Leaders program is a no-cost “mini MBA,” that assists growing entrepreneurs take their business to the next level. The 2021 Classes will encourage small business owners to grow even stronger and smarter during COVID. Application registration is open now for qualified applicants in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.
  4. Assistance to Woman Entrepreneurs: Immediately before COVID, Black women were starting their own businesss at record rates. Women’s Business Centersassist women in starting and growing small businesses. They provide a full range of services for women entrepreneurs at all stages of planning, implementation and growth.
  5. Support to Veteran-Owned Small BusinessBoots to Businessis an entrepreneurial education and training program available to active-duty service members (including National Guard and Reserve), veterans and their spouses in starting, growing or pivoting their business.
  6. Taking their Business to the International Market: Two thirds of the world’s consumers are located outside of the United States. Export Assistance Centers help small businesses entering the international marketplace. Entrepreneurs can learn how to export, participate in foreign trade missions and trade shows, translate websites, and design marketing campaigns.
  7. Accessing Government Contracts: The SBA Mentor-Protégé Programis designed for small businesses to learn from an experienced government contractor. Women-owned business certification helps provide a level playing field for women business owner as the government limits competition for certain contracts to businesses certified as women-owned.
  8. Online Resources: gov includes online resources such as the newly launched Ascent platform as well as information about upcoming webinars to assist entrepreneurs in overcoming common business challenges.
  9. Local SupportSBA District Officescan connect you to local SBA resources, mentors and training.