Running a small business is always challenging, and if you don’t have the right support, it can be nearly impossible. Luckily, whether you need financial or educational support, there are a range of programs designed to foster the growth and independence of your organization. Here is a look at key programs for minority-owned businesses.
Run by the Small Business Administration, the Business Development program offers mentorship and guidance to minority business owners with the end goal of helping these entrepreneurs obtain government contracts. The organization doesn’t define the term minority for the purposes of this program. However, to be eligible, small business owners must be able to demonstrate that they are socially or economically disadvantaged, and the company must be primarily owned by the disadvantaged entrepreneur. Disadvantaged in this case may refer to race, gender, sexuality, location, or a range of other categories — the program is flexible.
In addition to national programs, there are a range of local programs designed to foster success among minority business owners. To find a program in your area, check with your local chamber of commerce or look at the website for your local city or county government. For example, Tampa has the Women/Minority Business Enterprise Program. Like the SBA Business Development program, this program helps minority-owned businesses obtain local government contracts. Similarly, Cincinnati has a program with the end goal of boosting the amount of contracts awarded to businesses owned by minorities and women.
Founded in 2000, the Minority Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit business organization designed to promote the economic progress of minority-owned businesses. Based in Miami, the organization offers educational seminars, information on financing, networking opportunities, job fairs, and other events to support minority-owned businesses. There are similar organizations in many urban areas including Tallahassee, Florida; Mansfield, Texas; Trenton, New Jersey; and Dayton, Ohio, among others.
Another SBA program, SCORE has been supporting small business owners for over 60 years. The program works through 348 local chapters, and to date, these groups have fostered the success of well over 10 million entrepreneurs. SCORE offers mentorship, training, and networking opportunities, and although the program is not directly geared toward minority business owners, its services are in line with the needs of entrepreneurs from those communities.
The US Department of Commerce runs the minority business development agency. This group helps small businesses gain access to government contracts nationally and locally. It provides information and education on exporting for businesses that are ready to go global, and it connects business owners to start-up and expansion capital. The organization also holds grant competitions, helping to fund small businesses with money that does not need to be repaid. Finally, the MBDA has specific services for key minority communities. For example, the Tribal Consultation is geared toward native business owners.
In addition to education and support, there are also specific loans designed for minorities business owners. In particular, some fintech companies offer loans to minority-owned small businesses. Rather than using the same applications and creditworthiness models that banks use when reviewing loan applications, these organizations look at alternative criteria. They examine key business data such as accounting records, sales revenues, customer reviews, bank account details, and countless other data points. This new lending model increases the chances of approval and allows many minority business owners to access funding they may not have been able to obtain if they only applied to a big bank.
If you live in a rural area, you may want to check out the Rural Business Enterprise Grant. Through this program, you can obtain grants worth between $10,000 and $500,000. To apply, you don’t have to be a minority, but the program is designed to help people in economically disadvantaged areas. You must live in a rural area or on a Native American reservation to qualify. The grants can be used for buying or developing land, construction, pollution control, distance education for adults, or improving rural transportation. Essentially the program supports small businesses and nonprofits who are trying to improve rural living through education, services, or infrastructure.
Throughout the country, there are several programs called Dare to Dream, and in many cases, these programs offer grants for minority, women or student-owned businesses. For example, the Women’s Club of Summerlin in Nevada offers a $3,000 grant for aspiring female entrepreneurs through its Dare to Dream program. Similarly, the Zell Lurie Institute from the University of Michigan award grants worth $500 to $5,000 to students at the University of Michigan who are interested in starting their own businesses.
First implemented in 2015, the InnovateHer is bound to make “herstory” with its unique grant competition for women-owned businesses. Also run by the SBA, this program allows women entrepreneurs to pitch an idea in their community. Local judges send the top contestants to a national competition, and of the 10 finalists, the one with the best idea wins $70,000 to fund her small business.