(This column originally appeared in The Inquirer)
Black residents make up approximately 43% of Philadelphia’s population yet only own about 6% of the city’s businesses. There are resources to help them get their businesses up and running.
Black residents make up approximately 43% of Philadelphia’s population yet own only about 6% of the city’s businesses and contribute just 2% of overall business revenues locally, according to the latest figures available from both the U.S. Census Bureau and research from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The reasons for this lopsided representation are many. But the good news is that Black business ownership is growing, with a report from the Brookings Institution finding that from 2017 to 2020, the number of Black-owned businesses across the country increased by more than 13%, a larger rate than all businesses in general. Revenues from Black-owned firms increased 11% during that same time period.
“I have been helping Black business owners for many years,” said Iola Harper, a senior vice president at The Enterprise Center in West Philadelphia. “I am seeing an awakening and more Black entrepreneurs making money, and because of that many organizations like ours are expanding to help them.”
Black business owners — like most other businesses owners — are looking for capital, and both locally and nationally there are private programs to help them.
These include Comcast’s RISE program, which provides grants, support and other resources to businesses owned by women and people of color in the region, and Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women, a $10 billion investment strategy designed to narrow opportunity gaps facing Black women across education, health care, and housing. In the two years since its launch, One Million Black Women has deployed over $2.1 billion in investment capital and over $23 million in philanthropic grants to 137 organizations.
There are also funding opportunities provided through governments. The City of Philadelphia’s Business Lending Network provides access to nonprofit and for-profit lenders with one form. The federal government’s State Small Business Credit Initiative, a $10 billion COVID-era funding initiative enabled local nonprofits, community lending organizations, and certain financial services firms to offer grants, loans, and equity investments in businesses owned by women and people of color.
“A lot of Black business owners are starting to realize that there are a lot of resources available for them,” said Niya Murphy, a business consultant and the owner of New Networks Consulting in Philadelphia. “Getting capital is critical, but relying on organizations and people who can help a Black business owner run and grow their business has become just as important.”
In addition to funds, business owners also need help procuring work, managing their cash, hiring good people, and running their businesses. In the Philadelphia area, there are organizations that can help.
African American Chamber of Commerce. Founded in 1993, the Chamber provides advocacy for Black-owned businesses in the Delaware Valley and Southeastern Pennsylvania. It also provides programs that pairs experienced professionals with new business owners as well as tool kits to help them market and expand their companies. The chamber also offers financial advisers to help eligible business owners prepare to access the commercial lending market.
Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council. The EMSDC is one of 23 regional councils across the country that helps connect people of color who own businesses with more than 1,750 corporations that are committed to diversifying their suppliers. The council provides certification programs to ensure that members have the capacity to provide goods and services to Fortune 500 corporations or their prime suppliers, establish a broad geographic coverage, and demonstrate a capacity for growth.
The Enterprise Center. A nonprofit headquartered in West Philadelphia, the center provides consulting, certification programs, government procurement assistance, and financing and investment opportunities for people of color who own business. The Enterprise Center also provides the Biz on Wheels Curbside Business Services truck that brings services directly to customers and a Black Holiday Pop-up campaign that launches in mid-November and promotes the products and services of over 30 locally Black-owned businesses.