Like many people of varying stripes, you wish to pursue one of the American Dreams, you wish to pursue your passion, use your talents, bring your innovation to the masses, you are going to be an entrepreneur. If you are a minority or person of color, you are in good company, as minority owned businesses are growing at a faster pace than overall U.S. businesses. In 2012, minority entrepreneurs owned 8 million or 29% of the nations 26.7 million businesses. This is up from minority entrepreneurs owning 5.8 million of the U.S. businesses in 2007.
Unfortunately, despite the entrepreneurial spirit possessed by so many minorities along with their success rate, many people of color still find it difficult to get their businesses off the ground. According to a recent Forbes study, minority entrepreneurs typically encounter higher borrowing costs, receive smaller loans, and see their loan applications rejected more often than their Caucasian counterparts. Additionally, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) indicates that while minority-owned businesses make up 29% of businesses, only 11% have paid employees.
While this may seem discouraging, don’t let this stop you from pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams. While you may be faced with additional hurdles, you also have, at your disposal, a large number of resources to help you achieve your goals. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look.
U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency
The MBDA is exclusively dedicated to the furthering and success of minority-owned businesses. And, believe it or not, this government agency was actually established in 1969, so with nearly 50 years of experience, it is well positioned to provide you and your small business with the appropriate guidance. In fact, in 2012, the MBDA helped minority entrepreneur obtain over $3.6 million in capital awards and contracts.
If you head over to the MBDA website, you will surely be inspired by the array of success stories, while also learn how to apply for various minority certifications that will help you obtain contracts. The website also provides a tremendous amount of advice for business owners. Additionally, the MBDA offers extensive information on grants, loans and government contracts.
U.S. Small Business Administration
The SBA provides extensive services, including management and technical assistance, training and education as well as help accessing markets and capital, and more specifically, the special programs that are aimed towards assisting women and minority-owned businesses.
Another nonprofit organization, SCORE is comprised of volunteer business professionals who serve as mentors, offering education, training and guidance. Additionally, SCORE offers true mentorship, as their volunteers work closely, one-on-one or in small groups with their entrepreneurs. While SCORE’s services are available to all small business owners, they do have a strong focus on minority-owned businesses, including offering classes, seminars and resources that offer assistance in establishing and managing your small business.
Certifiable, But In a Good Way
As you can see, there are a great many resources available to the minority entrepreneur. However, to qualify for many of them, your small business will need to officially certify your business’s status as a minority-owned business. Obtaining the proper certifications can greatly increase your chances of obtaining various government contracts. Even if your small business is already well-established, ensuring that you have the proper certifications can provide you that added leverage. Some entities that offer certifications to minority-owned businesses are:
- The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) has 24 regional councils. If you want to do business with private sector buyers, they can get you through the application process.
- State agencies offer information on minority-owned enterprises and disadvantaged enterprises.
- The Department of Transportation Disadvantage Business Certification offers a vehicle for increasing the participation by minority-owned enterprises in state and local procurement.
Grant Me the Serenity
Obtaining funding is a concern for any small business owner, and as previously discussed, it can be even more discouraging for the minority entrepreneur. Fortunately, there are resources available for obtaining grant funding, which comes with the added bonus of it not being funds that you are expected to pay back!
Here are just a few of the grant opportunities, which may be of value to you and your small business:
- The National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grants Program, which allows businesses to apply for funding for a specific small business need, such as creating marketing materials, hiring part-time staff, or purchasing new computers.
- The Dare to Dream Grant Program encourages student entrepreneurship by offering business development seminars and grants in the amount of $10,000.
- The Miller Lite Tap the Future Business Plan Competition is an annual competition for minority entrepreneurs. It is designed to economically empower minority businesses, and invest in urban communities.
- The DOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program is designed to ensure nondiscrimination in the award and administration of Department of Transportation (DOT)-assisted contracts.
- The Fed-Ex Small Business Grant Contest is a nationwide competition that awards $50,000 in total to six U.S.-based entrepreneurs.
Grants are also awarded by the SBA, the MBDA and Rural Business Enterprise Grants.
Additional information can also be obtained through such websites as Grants.gov and Businessgrants.com.
Lend Me the Money
While it can be more difficult, at times, for minority entrepreneurs to obtain fair small business loans, don’t despair; there are certainly resources available to you that can offer financial assistance beyond grant funding.
The Small Business Administration (SBA), in addition to their array of resources available to entrepreneurs, also provide small business loans, including those that are owned by minorities. If you need less than $250,000 and are located in an underserved community, then the SBA Community Advantage Loan may be for you.
Camino Financial prides itself if lending to minority-owned business who do not qualify for a loan with the SBA. Camino starts lending as low as $5,000 for terms up to 5-years. Different than banks, Camino Financial is an online lender offering its applicants more simple, convenient and quicker funding. If you want to know if you qualify for a loan, click HERE.
Given the number of resources available to you as a minority entrepreneur, rather than feeling discouraged, hopefully you will feel inspired and empowered. With networking and research, you are leveraging yourself to not only pursue your own American Dream, but join the ranks of the growing numbers of successful minority small business owners. And, in doing so, serve as a source of inspiration for the next generation of potential economy-boosters, job creators, and innovators.