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Funding For Entrepreneurs of Color: Business Grants and Loans


According to Marcelo Claure, the COO of SoftBank, the Tokyo-headquartered conglomerate holding company, "Founders and entrepreneurs of color have so much potential, but they face unfair barriers that white founders don’t face,” Claure made this disclosure earlier on in the year amid the ravaging sweep of a pandemic that folded many businesses across the country. The company launched a $100 million fund to support startups owned by entrepreneurs of color. 

Generally, getting funding for your business is not an easy task, especially if you're just starting out. Partly contributing to this, is the fact that the majority of lenders have stiff criteria that screen out a lot of innovative businesses, denying them the resources they need to thrive in a highly competitive market environment. The situation is even bleaker for African Americans and other minority business owners in the United States. It is either the interest rates do not favor entrepreneurs of color, or they have to go through so much rigor to access traditional business funding. 

Even already established minority-owned businesses — Blacks, especially — experience difficulty when it comes to securing funding. Generally, way more funding flows to white-owned companies compared to the financing that is available to business owners of color, despite constituting the minority of entrepreneurs in the U.S. According to a 2018 report released by the SBA, monitory-owned businesses primarily source funds through family and personal savings. Whereas, White households' median net worth is about ten times more than that of Black households. Unfortunately, these statistics are reflective of the systemic racial and ethnic divide characteristic of the American system. 

If you're a Black business owner in America or you're a business owner from a minority group (Native American, Latinx, or Asian), and you've realized that traditional business funding is hard to secure, you may benefit from one or more of the resources discussed in the subsequent paragraphs. The prevailing circumstances notwithstanding, there is good news all over. Several government-funded business grants and loans are available to entrepreneurs of color and minority-owned businesses. Private banks and NGOs have also joined in to roll out lots of alternative funding schemes dedicated primarily to colored entrepreneurs in America. Here are some of them:

National African-American Small Business Loan Fund

The National African-American Small Business Loan Fund is an initiative launched in 2015 to provide business development fundings to startups and businesses owned by African American entrepreneurs. The loans provided have fair interest rates compared to traditional loans from mainstream lenders. 

Typically, you can access from $35,000 to $250,000. The loans are mainly available to Black entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago.

JPMorgan Chase Entrepreneurs of Color Fund

JPMorgan Chase is investing $40 million as part of its drive to create economic opportunity in Chicago’s South and West sides. The firm is investing $4 million in two major initiatives, including the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund program, to allow local minority-owned small businesses to share in Chicago’s growth. 

Small Business Administration (SBA) Community Advantage (7a) Loans

Small businesses and entrepreneurs operating in underserved markets may leverage the Community Advantage Loans Program provided under the 7(a) loan umbrella by the SBA. Entrepreneurs can access funds between $20,000 and $250,000 with less hassles, lower interest rates, and up to 20 years of repayment. The SBA does not provide the loans directly, but funds them through some minority lenders, while also guaranteeing up to 75% of each loan disbursed. 

Accion

Accion is a non-profit entity that's pioneering funding for microfinance and fintech impact investing. The organization partners with banks such as JPMorgan Chase and the likes in offering minority entrepreneurs term loans. The loan amount is typically between $300 to $1,000,000, with APR ranging from 7% to 34%. This funding is available to both established businesses and startups. However, Accion takes into consideration the borrower's credit score and other essential criteria to determine eligibility. 

Local Initiatives Support Corporation

The LISC was created by the Ford Foundation in 1979 to promote local businesses and community development projects through grants, loans, and equity investments. They also provide technical and management assistance. LISC is a non-profit community development financial institution (CDFI). With its affiliates, it supports local American enterprises in over 2,000 rural communities and 44 states across America. 

Key Takeaway

The funding landscape for minority-owned businesses has never been equitable, hence the need for alternative sources of funding. While the funding programs discussed above are great options, there exist a plethora of others that are available to African American entrepreneurs and other minority entrepreneurs in America. 


6 Pro Tips For Finding The Right Team Members

The team you work with can either build your business or bring you down. While the right team members are your best shot to stand tall in your niche, build a fine brand reputation, and secure a sizable market share, working with the wrong people will produce the opposite result. 

Yes, you read that right. And that's not to mention the risk of losing loyal customers or packing your bags eventually. The task of building an effective team can prove daunting for startups and small business owners. This is why you need to commit time and resources to find and recruit the best hands for your team. Mind you, the best hands must also be able to fit into the work culture of your organization, as this increases your chances of success. 

Building a high-performing team might seem very difficult, but it's doable. Here are seven proven tips to guide you in finding the right team members. 

#1 Build a Structure First

Many first-time entrepreneurs, startups, and small business owners rush into hiring people. But, in many cases, they are better off starting with contract hires than in-house staff. But even if you have done a thorough evaluation of things, and come up with the conclusion that in-house staff is the way to go, you need to put your house in order first. 

Let there be a hierarchy, a chain of command, or at least, a clear direction of how everyone should do things. Each new team member needs to understand this and probably sign an undertaking too. Sometimes, bad hires aren't the issue, but lack of internal structure is.

#2 Get The Best Hands On Board

Building a stellar team is highly dependent on your ability to find the right people for the job. This is the next step, to which you must give professional attention. Besides having the right skills, your ideal candidates should be able to adapt and learn the team's culture quickly. 

By and large, you're better off with people who are accountable and can be held responsible. 

#3 Find People Who Are Great Communicators

When we talk about growth, especially in business quarters, communication is a key factor. The right team members for your enterprise must be great at communication. You'd be better off with people who you can reach easily whenever the need arises and are also able to provide feedback as and when due. Working with people who cannot communicate clearly and time can be a drag on business. This is something you want to watch out for. 

#4 Look For Resourceful And Experienced Individuals

While you seek professionals to fill vacant positions within your new team, it's essential to emphasize experience. Experienced individuals bring a unique edge to your team, and that's what you want to have. 

In difficult situations, resourceful people can be your unique selling point. If, for instance, you run a tech-oriented business, working with very resourceful and experienced folks can make all the difference for your business. While this is not a must, as top talents can be quite expensive, you can make it your hiring goal as soon as you can afford it.

#5 Prioritize Skill Over Certification

This is yet another emphasis on skill. Do not be carried away with big certifications and degrees. What's most important is hiring qualified and skilled professionals. Hiring by certifications and degrees is not a bad idea in itself. However, be sure that the candidates can prove their worth by demonstrating the required knowledge and skills. 

#6 Find a Great Team Lead or Manager

If you aren't leading the team, you'd better hire a professional project manager. If you decide that your time is better used in building connections, establishing relationships, and creating structures that help your business grow, be sure to put the best person in charge. 

However, if you choose to run the show yourself, you have to be able to lead and manage every moving part of your business effectively. Leading is not an easy task, which is why the best candidate should do the job.

Key Takeaway

Finding the right team members is essential for business growth. It can be a challenging task if you have to do the job yourself. However, there are tips and strategies you can follow to build a team of effective individuals. 

Essential Sales Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs For Business Growth

The importance of sales can hardly be overemphasized. It is a core business skill for every entrepreneur who`s yearning for growth. Even if you have to outsource your marketing and sales team, you — as the business owner — must be able to sell your enterprise to customers, prospective investors, and, sometimes, lenders. Your ability to quickly learn how to sell is directly connected to how fast your enterprise grows. 

Well, you may say, "What if I'm already good at selling?" You can improve your skills, especially if you're not yet hitting your business goals. You'll be amazed at how much there is to learn.

Growing your business, among other factors, depends on how well you're able to pitch your ideas to investors, sell your brand to prospective clients, and build a reputation for your brand in your industry. 

Seeing how fundamental sales is to your success as an entrepreneur, you must build your sales skills by learning new techniques. And if you observe closely, you'll realize that the most successful brands and businesses usually have a strong sales culture. This is why small-business owners and entrepreneurs who`re just starting out need to take sales seriously. 

To ensure you're able to close more sales and drive in more profits, here are some essential sales skills that you need to learn as an entrepreneur. 

Leverage Your Unique Selling Point

A great way to sell better is by pushing forward your unique selling point (USP). Every business has one. You can create one for your business and leverage it as an edge over the competition. People are always attracted to the better side. And that begs the question, "In what way are you better than the others?"

Your USP can be your extended service hours, which allows your customers to do more. It could be that you make the best product or offer the best service in the industry. If you can creatively loop this into your sales strategy and marketing messages, you can be sure of getting better results. 

Listen More Than You Speak

The best salespersons are better listeners than their peers. It is often tempting to think that the more you say, the better you're able to convince your prospects. Well, you just might be missing out on your customers' perspective if you do most of the talking. 

In line with this understanding, small business owners need to learn to listen more before making their pitches. This approach helps you to better understand what your clients' needs are, and how to go about meeting those needs. 

Observe Your Competition

Since no one knows it all, your business can draw insights from how your competitors are doing things. Study their marketing strategies if you need to, but be creative with implementing what you glean from them.

In some cases, what you learn from your competition can help you craft your pitches better. There may be new trends and strategies that others have already deployed. 

Show Empathy

While it is all right to see every prospect as yet another sale to be closed, you need to show empathy while at it. Listen genuinely to the needs of your customers. After all, entrepreneurs are problem-solvers. 

Your focus ought to be resolving issues with your products and services, instead of simply cashing in at all times. In the long run, this will benefit your brand because more referrals will be headed your way. If you manipulate people just to close sales, you'll not only lose them but also lose others who notice or hear about it. 

Focus On The Value The Client Gets From Each Sale

Learning the art of sales pitch involves finding a creative way to get prospective clients to see the benefits they will get by patronizing you. Chances are, they'll be interested in continuing the conversation if they understand what you're offering. The best way to achieve this is to put yourself in the customer's position.

Follow Up Tactfully

Not every prospective person you speak with will respond immediately. A significant number of sales talks start and end over some time. However, a tactful follow-up will ensure you win the client over. But bear in mind, this is not the usual just-following-up kind of call or email. You can get creative about it. Each time, be sure to let the prospect understand the benefits in-store and what distinguishes your offer from the competition. You may offer a discount, promo, or something to reel in the client. 

In Conclusion

Sales skills are a must-have for every entrepreneur, as it is essential for the survival and growth of your business. If you're just getting your business off the ground, you may not be able to hire a pro salesperson or create a sales team yet, hence you need to learn how to sell your service or product and brand. You may have the best ideas, but without relevant sales skills, you may never achieve your business goals. 

How To Support Minority-owned Businesses During The Holidays

For a lot of businesses, 2020 has been uniquely unprecedented. Many companies had to re-strategize to stay afloat. Others depended on relief economic aid to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, while some were forced to shut their doors. Unfortunately, the majority of businesses worst hit by the pandemic are minority-owned businesses.

Being a minority business owner or running a minority-owned business in the U.S. comes with some stark realities. Unlike white-owned businesses, enterprises owned by Latinos and Blacks, for instance, will typically find it harder to survive market competition or to raise financial support for their businesses. 

According to different surveys, more entrepreneurs of color were negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic than White entrepreneurs. This is not to mention the fact that there are fewer minority-owned businesses in the country than white-owned businesses. 

The Importance of Supporting Minority-owned Businesses

The essence of this article is not to make comparisons or highlight the disadvantages of being an entrepreneur of color. Instead, it is to point out the need to support minority-owned businesses and how to support them. And the good news is that there are quite a number of initiatives — both from the government and private entities — aimed at providing financial and materials support to minority entrepreneurs. 

The importance of supporting Latinx and Black entrepreneurs really cannot be overemphasized, as the impact easily ripples from the affected businesses to their surrounding communities. More jobs and opportunities are created, the racial wealth gap gets increasingly smaller, and more local communities are better for it. In essence, helping minority businesses grow isn't just beneficial to colored entrepreneurs themselves, but it indirectly supports their families and local communities at large.

How To Support Minority-owned Businesses

Indeed, considering the disproportionate economic impact of the pandemic, there's no better time to support entrepreneurs of color than now. Here are 5 brilliant ways that we can support entrepreneurs of color in the U.S.

#1 Be deliberate about purchasing from Minority-owned businesses

This is definitely an excellent place to start. As we shop for the holiday, everyone naturally goes to the big names in the retail industry - BestBuy, Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, eBay, etc. However, if you intend to reign your support behind the local minority-owned businesses around you, you might need to switch to traditional shopping for a while. Even if you want to shop online, you probably will need to go out of your way and patronize entrepreneurs of color. 

#2 Spread the word

This is perhaps the simplest and most effective way to support entrepreneurs of color. As you go shopping, if you get a good deal, a great service, or a discount, simply tell someone else about it. If you buy online, endeavor to leave a review. You can also search for Black-owned business on Google and Twitter, if you do not know any. 

#3 Partner with Minority-owned businesses

On many occasions, bigger businesses need to collaborate with other companies and service providers. If you are a business owner, you can collaborate with minority-owned businesses to support them. Chances are, you'll find several colored vendors who`ll deliver excellent products and services.

The only drawback here is that you may need to be patient, as most minority-owned businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises. As such, their capacity and speed won't always measure up to that of the competition out there. 

#4 Provision of sponsorship and financial support

The need for capital and funding transcends the holidays. It is an all-time fundamental need for all businesses, both small and big. Therefore, in addition to referring, patronizing, and collaborating with businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color, they need to be given access to adequate financing and resources. 

Government grants, private sponsorships, equity funding, crowdfunding, and other forms of investments come in here. Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans who are in business mostly find it more challenging to access funds, unlike their White counterparts. 

#5 Give employees of color a place on your team

You may not realize it, but having employees from different backgrounds can benefit your business in many ways. You will also be empowering people of diverse backgrounds, who in turn will be able to support entrepreneurs of colors in their local communities - even in ways that you may not be able to. Research also reveals that having Blacks in management positions can profit your business immensely. 

Walking the talk

In practice, you don't need to look too far or do too much before you can find or support minority-owned businesses. The most important thing is making a conscious decision to be of help in any way that you can.