Hoping to elevate Black entrepreneurship, some top leaders from the private and public sectors examined fresh ways to make that happen.
They gathered as Operation HOPE, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the U.S. Treasury hosted a roundtable last week to honor Freedman’s Bank. The forum allowed participants a chance to frame an actionable plan that extends the path to Black business ownership, a tried-and-true strategy for boosting wealth and creating new jobs.
Black entrepreneurship has been an instrumental tool for building Black wealth for years. Research in recent years has shown that the median net worth for Black business owners is more than 10 times higher than for Blacks who do not own businesses.
John Hope Bryant, founder, chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE, the nation’s largest non-profit dedicated on financial empowerment for underserved communities, was joined by SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, U.S. Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo, and other attendees (included here).
The forum acknowledged the anniversary of the founding of the Freedman’s Savings Bank by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1865. At its peak, the bank had $57 million in deposits (adjusted for inflation) and some 70,000 depositors before it closed in 1874. At Bryant’s suggestion in 2015, the Treasury Annex building was renamed the Freedman’s Bank Building in Washington, D.C.
“The Freedman’s Bureau Act was the original small business program for formerly enslaved Black Americans, connecting assets–40 acres and a mule-with capital and financial education through the Freedman’s Bank,” Bryant said. “At Operation HOPE, we are building on this legacy, having created 185,000 new Black businesses since 2020 under our 1 Million Black Business Initiative, of which the SBA has been a significant partner. We are grateful to Administrator Guzman and her team for their ongoing support.”
The initiative was created two years in partnership with e-commerce giant Shopify to create 1 million Black-owned businesses over the next 10 years. It was among the key takeaways and challenges discussed at the forum. Participants concurred that the need for continued partnership between the federal government, private organizations, and community leadership can improve economic outcomes for all.
Other topics included boosting visibility and connections to help advance entrepreneurship. Black founders interested in learning how to qualify for procurement opportunities can do so at no cost here.
Hope added his organization will work with partners to expand programs that provide career education and training, access to mentorship and contacts, as well as access to capital. He emphasized those elements are critical to reinvesting in growing small business, particularly in communities of color.
“Today, there is a disconnect between policy makers and organizations that serve on the frontlines to support Black entrepreneurs (both non-profit and private sector). HOPE seeks to serve as a Sherpa to help connect the dots and improve outcomes.”
To help boost the support of Black-owned plans, some actionable plans from the forum included:
- “Increasing access to capital—HOPE’s 1MBB program participants are offered $25,000 worth of in-kind services, including access to Shopify e-commerce experts upon program completion. The SBA has also committed to providing funding opportunities.”
- “Developing entrepreneurial talent—HOPE’s 1MBB program provides free counseling and low-cost training to new entrepreneurs and existing small businesses. Business planning, financial coaching, and even legal services are offered at no cost. Of note, Black women have been leading the charge for the increase in new small business creation.”
- “Educating Black Business Owners on procurement—This includes building the pipeline and educating entrepreneurs on how to apply and qualify for government contracting opportunities. The certification process can be tedious, but help is available through SBA resources.”