All Articles Tagged "african american entrepreneurship"
African American entrepreneurship was the topic of a recent summit sponsored by the Small Business Association (SBA), the US Department of Education and the White House. As JohnathanHolifield, the co-founder of The America 21 Project and a participant at the summit acknowledges, “We need to create a thrust to complement existing entrepreneurship and small business leadership to ensure that African Americans as well as Latinos and others are connected to the innovation economy.”
According to the Washington Informer, the forum was moderated by Marie Johns, SBA’s Deputy Administrator.
“Our job at the SBA – which boasts 17 development centers on HBCU campuses across the country – is to ensure that innovative ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit can be harnessed, and then transformed into successful businesses,” she said at the forum.
HBCU representatives were central voices to the forum, including Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux as a panelist. Malveaux, who believes that African Americans were the original entrepreneurs in this country, revealed that Bennett College has been assisting with entrepreneurship over the past four years, with the construction of several of its new buildings. The construction of four of the campus’ buildings was a $21 million project in Greensboro, NC that meant economic opportunities for the area’s residents.
“One of the things that I insisted [on], was that the major contractor made sure 50 percent of the [sub-contractors] were people of color. . . [and] that’s the role we [currently] play” in creating black-owned and operated businesses,” he said.
Rutgers University has focused energies on a “Lemonade Day” in Newark, New Jersey. The project is aimed at helping children from kindergarten to age 12 understand entrepreneurship through developing a lemonade stand.
Meanwhile in Charlotte, NC, Ron Stodgill, the director of the Small Business Incubator/Think Tank on Johnson C. Smith’s campus, relays the group’s initiatives to reach businesses in their local area. Although the group is making strides, Stodgill acknowledges that the growth won’t happen overnight.
To that end, Holifield points out one of the black community’s greatest business weaknesses.
“We have in our communities and in our HBCUs, good programs and good support systems,” he said. “but we lack emphasis on explosive-growth for the kinds of companies that are responsible for the disproportionately high amount of jobs [created].”
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What are the best ways to encourage entrepreneurship and economic empowerment amongst our people?
The answer to what you’ve asked is complex and loaded. A discussion about entrepreneurship and economic empowerment in the black community is one we need to have honestly and mindfully. Beyond simply talking about the answer, we’ve got to get busy and focused on taking consistent action.
Two years ago, the outlook for new entrepreneurial activity in the black community was looking up. According to the Kauffman Foundation, the world’s largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship, the greatest increase for business creation in 2009 was among African-Americans1. However, Kauffman’s latest research shows that both blacks and non-Latino whites experienced declines in entrepreneurial activity in 20102.
While I wish the business creation rate in our community was still on an upward trend — because the more businesses started by black people, the more likelihood of seeing more of them stick around — the worthier challenge is developing the strength, stature and staying power of the businesses we already own. Therein lies the overall answer to your question.
The best way to encourage entrepreneurship and economic empowerment in the black community is to make successful business ownership routine. It needs to become an everyday, expected, normal part of our way of life. This actually isn’t just an issue in the black community. Of all new businesses started in America, 96 percent of them fail within 10 years. While that rate of failure cuts across the board, African-Americans are disproportionately affected because we lag behind all other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. for wealth creation3. And successful business ownership is the number one way to create first generation wealth4 so this is a double whammy.
To make business success more routine in the black community we have to:
- Increase our financial literacy;
- Start with a business plan;
- Constantly train, study and execute to become smarter, more skilled entrepreneurs;
- Grow our businesses with the intention of creating jobs because employer firms vastly out earn sole proprietors;
- Operate our businesses based on principles and numbers, not emotions;
- Learn to do business internationally;
- Prepare and compete to be number one period (not just in our community);
- Start or buy defensive businesses, which are ones that provide products and services that people need regardless of economic conditions;
- Start or buy businesses in the biggest wealth creating industries—such as technology, engineering, manufacturing and energy; and
- Spread this mentality and these behaviors among our family members and throughout our communities.
On another note, we also have to teach our children and youngest family members that entrepreneurship is just as noble and respectable an option — if not more so — as building a great career at a company that is a household brand. Plus, we need to get children and teenagers in the habit of entrepreneurship early. Instead of giving them allowance or sending them off to a minimum wage job, we have to challenge them to think of creative ways to earn their own money. Last but not least, we ought to be as eager to invest in their early businesses and entrepreneurial education as we are to invest in their college education.
Grace & Peace,
Felicia Joy is a nationally recognized entrepreneur who created $50 million in value for the various organizations and companies she served in corporate America before launching her business enterprise. She is often called on to discuss the ins and outs of entrepreneurial success and has appeared on CNN, FOX and in other national press. Felicia operates Ms. CEO Inc., a company that helps women entrepreneurs achieve more success, faster — as well as Joy Group International, LLC, a business development and consulting firm. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/feliciajoy.
Most of us are aware that African Americans face the most dire job prospects of any ethnic group in America. As of last month, black unemployment stood at 15.4 percent, compared to 8.6 percent among white Americans. Additionally, the economy is showing signs that it may not recover the way everyone had hoped. Job creation has become the unsolvable puzzle for the Obama Administration, and if he can’t make things better for everyone, he’s certainly not working overtime to make things better for black folks.
The solution to all this? We have to find a way to save ourselves. Even if black unemployment drops within the next year, it is still likely to remain in the double digits. Black America lives within the grips of a permanent recession, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Black folks are being naïve to expect that we might have the same unemployment rate as whites in this economy, in this nation, as it exists today. Non-black people own most of the businesses that are doing all the hiring, so do you really think they are going to, on average, hire a black person over an equally-qualified white candidate? Well, nearly every academic study in the world says this is not going to be the case. Also, most of us are fully aware that white America has had an affirmative action program in place for hundreds of years called “The good old boy system,” where opportunities are created for friends, cousins, children and nephews. Black folks don’t have access to this system because we’ve been denied the opportunity to build our own institutions.
So, the first step toward making long-term progress on black unemployment is for us to own more businesses. When you teach your children where babies come from, they should also learn where jobs come from and how to create them. Entrepreneurship not only makes you financially independent, it also makes you socially independent and secure. We must find ways to make our own money.
Secondly, a greater commitment to education is always a great defense against joblessness. We should cheer for academic champions the way we cheer for sports champions. Right now, black America doesn’t value education the way we should, so when confronted with the weight of modern capitalism, we end up showing up to a gun fight with a butter knife and unable to compete. Set the educational bar high for your kids, and force them to know the power of knowledge and preparation.
Third, managing our money more effectively is a critical key to obtaining our financial freedom. African Americans are consumers like no other, and the money we need to continue consuming and living paycheck to paycheck turns us into economic crackheads looking for our next fix. Corporate America, the place that isn’t willing to give us jobs, becomes the financial dope dealer we need in order to survive. That’s why black people still aren’t free.
The bottom line is threefold (three words, all starting with the letter “E”): Entrepreneurship, Education and Economic responsibility. That’s what will help us find the jobs we are looking for without frustrating ourselves perpetually. We’ve got to try something different, since we’ve now learned that the government is not going to save us.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the initiator of the National Conversation on Race. He is also the author of the book, “Black American Money.” For more information, please visit BoyceWatkins.com.