Black business owners face unique challenges when starting their business. According to a recent study by Guidant Financial, 80% of Black business owners say their number one challenge is access to capital. As The Minority Business Development Agency points out, minority-owned businesses are more likely to be denied loans at triple the rate than non-minority firms.
However, the tides are turning. According to research by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), entrepreneurship within minority groups is increasing. The SBA data indicates that minorities own 29% of U.S. businesses. The Minority Business Development Agency (MDBA) says the number of U.S. minority-owned business enterprises more than doubled between 2002 and 2012.
All of this is exactly what we want to hear. Not only does it mean that there are opportunities for business owners from all different backgrounds, often underrepresented in the small business world, to open up shop—but it also means they are seizing these opportunities.
Starting a business is already a challenge, so when you’re up against additional odds, it’s only tougher. Fortunately, there are many resources offered by agencies and organizations dedicated to serving minority business owners, from getting the advice to start your business to minority business loans to finance and grow your business.
And these resources are only increasing as the population of Black business owners increases. Here are the best small business resources for Black business owners, and other great opportunities to find help, too.
The following is a list of the best resources to help Black business owners operate their business more efficiently and scale. We’ve broken down our list into subsections on the type of help each resource offers.
Let’s get started:
As previously stated, Black business owners have had a notoriously difficult time acquiring financing for their business. These resources are here to help:
The National Association for the self-Employed (NASE) holds an ongoing application through their growth grants program in which business owners can apply for grants up to $4,000. All small business owners who are NASE members with up-to-date dues can apply. Past recipients have secured funds for help with technology, hiring, and marketing.
Funded by the U.S. Black Chambers Community Economic Development Corporation, Millennial Entrepreneurs Redefined is a program for millennials (between the ages of 18 and 35) who “have not yet started a business but have an innovative idea, or have an emerging business with less than $10,000 in capital and/or revenue.” The U.S. Black Chamber and partners involved in the program will provide ongoing support, mentorship, and consultation for the selected winners. Following the initial selections, all applicants of the first round are eligible to compete in a plan and pitch competition with awards up to $5,000.
This financing resource for Black business owners is a global, non-profit micro-lender that provides financing to disadvantaged populations. Accion International has been around since the 1960s and also provides business advisory, investing, and partnership services.
Next we’ll provide you with some resources that will help you develop your business once you’ve gotten it started.
The federal government doesn’t offer grants for business owners, as its funding is granted to organizations, not individuals. However, it does provide many resources for minority business owners. For example, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) within the U.S. Department of Commerce is the only agency solely dedicated to the growth of minority businesses. That means the MBDA provides access to financing resources as well as some funding opportunities for minority business owners.
The Capital Pathways program is a workshop hosted by the MBDA across the United States that seeks to connect and educate communities of minority business owners. These live workshops provide credit counseling, entrepreneurship education, and training from local lenders, investors, and contractors, aiming to help owners grow business and secure capital.5.
The goal of the 8(a) Business Development Program is to promote business ownership by minority individuals by providing a variety of resources such as access to capital and other forms of financial assistance. In order to qualify for the 8(a) business development program, the small business must be 51% owned and controlled by a U.S. citizen who has experienced cultural bias and placed at an economic disadvantage because of their race or ethnicity. Here’s a list of eligibility requirements.
The Small Business Empowerment Program is hosted by Operation Hope. The 12-week training program is designed for entrepreneurs and small business owners in low-income neighborhoods. This program offers business training and financial counseling with lending services. Partnering with more than 25 direct lenders nationwide, Operation Hope provides access to a wide range of small business loan options. Plus, participants can find access to business services, training, and other resources.
The National Minority Supplier Development Council is a corporate member organization focused on increasing business opportunities for certified minority-owned businesses. It operates the Business Consortium Fund, a nonprofit business development program, which offers financing programs and business advisory services for its members.
Capital One and the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) have teamed up to offer a business development program, CATAPULT. The seven-month long program will train business owners in creating solutions to complex business problem or help in creating a new product or service. More information about the program and its requirements can be found here.
The Department of Transportation has the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program, which is designed to protect small business owners against discrimination when snagging contracts in federally assisted highway, transit, airport, and highway safety sectors nationwide. The goal of the DBE program is to level the playing field for small business owners who identify as socially and economically disadvantaged, to provide them with a fair opportunity to compete for federally funded transportation contracts.
For those looking to secure government contacts in New York City, and for businesses that are certified as Minority-Owned Business Enterprises, Capalino+Company has a MWBE Consulting Group, which aims to help businesses comply with the city’s regulations. With their range of knowledge and experience with government processes, Capalino+Company helps businesses go after government contracts.
You can also try their mobile app, MWBE Connect NY, dedicated to pairing up MWBEs with government contract opportunities. Matches can also connect with their expert consultants right on the app.
For more information on receiving a Minority-Owned Business Enterprise certification, check out the Empire State Development government website.
The National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) is a non-profit organization that provides educational and economic growth opportunities to their network of members. NBMBAA provides year-round programming and events to expose members to new topics, ideas and training. The NBMBAA network boasts 39 local Chapters, 280 Partners, and 14,000 members. Find a chapter near you.
Founded in 1972 as a full-service, non-profit (501)(c)(3) corporation, the National Minority Business Council (NMBC) is dedicated to providing business assistance, educational opportunities, seminars, purchasing listings and related services to hundreds of businesses across he nation. Programs offered by the NMBC include an international trade program, executive management program, and an entrepreneurial bootcamp.
The Black Business Association is the oldest active ethnic business organization in California. According to their website, their mission is to ensure that “African American and other diverse business owners benefit from our advocacy efforts to impact, improve, and implement policy that improves access to contracting and procurement opportunities with the public and private sector, in addition to providing access to financial resources.”
This organization services Black business owners specifically in the state of California, and hosts events and networking opportunities.
For Black business owners in the tech sect0r, there’s Black Founders. The goal of this non-profit organization is to increase the number of successful Black entrepreneurs in technology. Black Founders develops global programs that equip entrepreneurs, inspire innovation, and allow them to share resources and knowledge. Throughout the year, Black Founders hosts a series of networking events, workshops, conferences, and hackathons. They also help connect Black founders with investing opportunities.
Along with general resources for Black business owners, there are also resources specifically for Black women business owners. We’ll list them here. You should also read our article on grants for Black female business owners.
Black Women Connect is an online community and social network for Black women who are career-driven and business savvy. When you sign up for Black Women Connect, you can connect with other Black women entrepreneurs for jobs, business building, and professional networking.
The goal of Black Women Enterprises (BWE) is to identify and remove the barriers that impede the success of Black women business owners from participating in government and private sector procurement. On their website, they say they work to “promote equal access to capital, educate, advocate, reverse industry trends that foster business failure among black women business owners, serve as a referral resource, and serve as a clearing house for all information related to businesses owned by black women.”
BWE hosts workshops, membership meetings, networking events, and also provide business counseling. Note that BWE mainly service Black women business owners in New York State. Membership is free.
Along with the aforementioned resources, we also reached out to Black business owners directly to learn about what resources have helped them grow their business, and inspired them to keep working. Here’s what they had to say.
This non-profit, which helps business owners in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas get business loans, was recommended by Jean-Marc Saint Laurent. When he wanted to open his agency, Saint313, DreamSpring got him the financing to get started.
“Basing their evaluations more on the character of people instead of their paperwork, they often fund minority business owners to great success, providing reasonable rates and learning opportunities for professional development,” says Saint Laurent.
Texas has more Black business owners of any other state in the country, according to Guidant Financial. And for those Black business owners in the Houston area, the Houston Area Urban League Young Professionals can be a great resource, according to Michelle Ngome, owner of Line 25 Consulting.
“I served the Houston Area Urban League Young Professionals as a marketing chair. This position allowed me to gain new skills with various platforms, networking, public speaking, and gained a mentor,” says Ngome. “It laid the foundation which allowed me to sharpen my focus and launch my marketing company sooner than I expected. I eventually gained clients in social media management and social media training. Within a year I wrote a book on networking and flipped it into a podcast. These types of organizations are a system, but it is the relationships I nurtured that allowed me to explore numerous opportunities as a business owner.”
Black Enterprise, a newspaper and online publication on Black business news and recommendations, comes recommended by entrepreneur Raquel Thomas. She says Black Enterprise does a good job highlighting the work that Black business owners are doing across the country.
“It is a source of hope and motivation for African American entrepreneurs,” Thomas says. “More importantly Black Enterprise educates about the Black dollar and Black leadership. Both of which is needed in the African American community.”
Next up on our list of resources for Black business owners is Excelsior Growth Fund, a non-profit that promotes economic development and job creation in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania by providing streamlined access to small business loans and business advisory services. This resource comes recommended by Yvette Richardson, owner of SRW Engineering, who successfully secured a business loan through Excelsior.
“Their loan process was easy and the people were very friendly and helpful,” Richardson says. “Even after closing the loan, the EGF folks have made themselves available to me when I need advice regarding financial issues. EGF makes me feel like SRW is their only and most important customer.”
USA.gov provides information for small business resources specific to your state. The National Black Chamber of Commerce also provides excellent resources and national events throughout the year for Black business owners. Make sure to stay involved with their initiatives to promote your business, and also see where your own expertise can be a fit.
Relatedly, reach out to your local or state chamber of commerce. There’s no better time to show that there is a need within your community for small business owners and entrepreneurs than now—by reaching out, you may even discover a local organization that is looking to help out entrepreneurs with information, resources, and maybe even financing, too.
For those aspiring business owners who want to work in tech, Black Girls Code provides lessons to girls between the ages of 7 and 17 from underrepresented communities in programming languages such as Scratch or Ruby on Rails.
As minority business ownership continues to grow, the opportunities for funding will continue to develop. Organizations are providing new resources and developing new programs for the future of Black business ownership.
New programs, organizations, and opportunities for minority business owners are opening up every day, so keep an eye on the U.S. Black Chamber site for new events and programs as they come up. And if we missed something, or you know of something new popping up? Contact us so we can keep our listing current and list all of the opportunities out there.
Priyanka Prakash is a senior contributing writer at Fundera.
Priyanka specializes in small business finance, credit, law, and insurance, helping businesses owners navigate complicated concepts and decisions. Since earning her law degree from the University of Washington, Priyanka has spent half a decade writing on small business financial and legal concerns. Prior to joining Fundera, Priyanka was managing editor at a small business resource site and in-house counsel at a Y Combinator tech startup.