Issa Rae Steps Up To ‘Invest In The Black Community’ With The ‘Backing Change’ Initiative

Issa Rae Steps Up To ‘Invest In The Black Community’ With The ‘Backing Change’ Initiative

Issa Rae is the creator behind television hits like Insecure and her current Rap Sh*t, but she’s also a small business owner who’s passionate about amplifying other Black and small businesses.

That’s why Issa teamed up with American Express to support the Backing Change initiative that aids underrepresented-owned small businesses with tools including grants and funding, Business Class content that helps businesses become more resilient and resourceful, a Contract Connections platform that connects Buyers and Suppliers, and a ByBlack program that serves as the first national certification program exclusively for Black-ownership designation.

Speaking exclusively with BLACK ENTERPRISE, Issa shared more about her involvement in the initiative and how it helps early entrepreneurs overcome common business hurdles.

Tell us about the importance of initiatives like Backing Change and what inspired your involvement.

I’ve been an American Express Card Member since 2006 and have partnered with them since 2019 – I continue to be impressed with the many resources they provide to small businesses, especially those owned by minority entrepreneurs. I’ve had the chance to meet and connect with many entrepreneurs to hear about their journeys and challenges firsthand. American Express provides unprecedented access to capital, resources, and tools for small businesses, all under the Backing Change umbrella. Support and resources go such a long way and AmEx truly walks the walk.

What are some common challenges early entrepreneurs face that initiatives like Backing Change help to combat?

Finding and connecting with customers and accessing capital are two of the most common challenges entrepreneurs face. Backing Change includes ByBlack, powered by the US Black Chambers Inc., and it’s the first national certification program exclusively for Black ownership designation. That means Black-owned small businesses can get a quick, simple, and free accreditation that allows customers and other companies to easily find these businesses. I certified my hair care business, Sienna Naturals, and customers have expressed that they appreciate having a trusted database to help them buy Black.

As another way to help entrepreneurs get customers, Amex offers Contract Connections in partnership with the National 8(a) association – this is a matchmaking program connecting small suppliers with government agencies and large corporations who are buyers, for one-on-one meetings to discuss shared business opportunities. In particular, ChallengeHER helps boost government contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses through free workshops, mentoring, and direct access to contractors.

Small business owners can also get access to funding options that can help jump-start or grow their business through American Express’ Business line of credit, which offers flexible funding – customers use what they need and only pay for the amount borrowed.

Minority-owned businesses are often the most economically vulnerable, so I appreciate that American Express offers funding options to help these entrepreneurs.

Is Buying Black a priority for you? What are some ways you enjoy supporting Black-owned businesses?

Of course! I’ve been a supporter of buying small and buying local and living and working in South L.A., which means buying Black. Every dollar spent on a local, small business puts money back into our community, so it’s so important to invest in the Black community by patronizing businesses started by our smart and innovative business leaders.

How has it been managing your career in Hollywood and your entrepreneurial endeavors like Sienna Naturals and Hilltop Coffee?

I’m grateful to have such an amazing team of employees and collaborators to help me juggle so many of my dream endeavors. The most important tool for me has been time management. I’m very realistic with myself about my timelines and I tend to be regimented about what I lend my focus to.


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