Resources and Support for Black SMBs [Black Tradelines + More]
According to the latest census, there are less than 125,000 Black-owned businesses in the U.S.
Not only do many of these businesses provide a unique and tailored set of services to their communities, but they’re also sources of hope, recognition, and pride.
These businesses are essential, but many of them are struggling to find the funding and capital they need.
While the country tries to fight it, the sad truth is that racial injustice is still very prevalent, even in the world of business.
Seeing the need, many organizations have stepped up to help Black businesses have a fighting chance, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
The resources below can provide the edge that Black small business owners need to survive this difficult economy:
One common struggle that many Black small business owners face is the difficulty of securing funds to start, improve, or maintain their businesses.
This list of funding opportunities includes public and private financial assistance programs, loan programs from financial institutions and nonprofit organizations, and more.
These resources are specifically designed for Black entrepreneurs or minority groups and are dedicated to helping underserved communities.
Black Business Grant Programs
While some funding sources give you time to generate revenue before you need to start paying them back, grants don’t require you to pay the funds back at all.
Even if they’re only for a small amount, business grants can be the propeller of otherwise impossible success.
Any Black-owned business can apply for these grants. However, the qualifications and application process differ for each one.
1. Coalition to Back Black Businesses
This coalition, sponsored by American Express, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ADP, and other organizations, is promising to distribute $13,000,000 in grants and other aid.
Both the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. take part in the distribution of these grants.
To qualify for eligibility, businesses must:
- Be Black-owned.
- Employ three to twenty people.
- Be located in an economically vulnerable community.
Each grant is for the amount of $5,000, with the possibility of a $25,000 enhancement grant.
2. Black Business Relief Fund
Another timely grant for Black-owned businesses is the Black Business Relief Fund, distributed by WeBuyBlack and Shea Moisture.
The purpose of these grants is to help Black-owned businesses affected by COVID-19 stay in business.
While there was a definite response from the government to help businesses as a whole, this grant is designed specifically for Black businesses that were in danger of going bankrupt.
The NAACP currently offers the Power Forward Grant, a small business grant of $25,000, and is constantly adding more grants and funding opportunities to support Black businesses around the country.
The NAACP also provides advocacy, justice, and networking opportunities for Black business owners.
4. Hello Alice
Hello Alice partners with a number of organizations to provide aid and support to Black small business owners.
For instance, the Black-Owned Business Center, a collaboration with the NAACP, describes itself as “a growing resource of money, networks, and opportunities for one of the fastest-growing groups of small business owners in America.”
Not only does their website provide a wealth of educational resources for small businesses to use in their launch and growth, but there is a list of available grants that is updated regularly.
One example is the Business For All Grants program. This team effort from Hello Alice and Verizon provides business capital to minority groups in the form of $10,000, $25,000, and $50,000 grants.
The organization has awarded these grants to 152 businesses already, with more to be announced.
Another example is the SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant, a program sponsored by the SoGoal Foundation and Winky Lux. The organizations promise to provide at least two $10,000 grants to startups owned by Black women or nonbinary entrepreneurs.
Related: 9 Grants for Black Women Entrepreneurs
5. Minority Business Development Agency
Applying for grants might seem overwhelming, but organizations like the Minority Business Development Agency are here to help.
This agency provides grant-writing assistance for minority-owned businesses. They’re also available to answer questions that applicants might have about the process.
At times, they also offer specialized grants for minority communities.
6. Women of Color E-Lab
Being Black and a woman puts you in a double struggle for advancement.
The Women of Color E-Lab is a site where Black women can take online courses to improve their business skills.
Once they’ve completed the course, they are eligible to pitch for a $100,000 grant.
7. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation
The LISC offers small business relief grants with priority given to minorities.
There are national and local grants available through this program. They have awarded over $62 million in relief funds for small businesses across the country.
Check the LISC website regularly for updates on grants being offered.
Managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, Grants.gov contains a massive database of grants and grant-related resources.
Although it’s not just for Black businesses, it’s still a great source of information.
See also: MWBE Certificate [and Other Certifications for Minority/Women-Owned Businesses]
Black Business Loans
Small business loans are another funding opportunity for Black-owned businesses.
For many Black business owners, finding a financial institution willing to extend them a loan is difficult.
The companies below, whether for-profit or nonprofit, have one goal in mind:
To give minority businesses access to capital, free of the typical race- and gender-related pitfalls.
1. Accion International
Accion International is a nonprofit microlender whose goal is to provide economic opportunity to minority-led small businesses through low-interest loans.
EnrichHer’s Accelerator program is an educational program that connects Black and women entrepreneurs with potential lenders.
Upon the completion of their five-week (four hours per week) course, graduates are eligible to enroll in the Portfolio Match program, in which they’re matched with a possible investor.
The program will teach you everything you need to know about applying for loans and marketing your business. You could also walk away with some funding for your company.
3. Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides aid to small businesses across the nation.
This branch of the federal government offers loan programs, grants, counseling, and other resources to all small businesses.
The SBA is the administration that has overseen the distribution of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and economic relief programs during the coronavirus pandemic.
4. Union Bank
The Union Bank offers a special diversity lending program for businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans.
The bank also maintains a Certification Center, helping clients earn credentials such as:
- Certification as a Woman Business Enterprise (WBE)
- Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE)
- Minority Business Enterprise (MBE)
These certifications can improve a business’s chance of earning government-sponsored grants or contracts in the future.
Related: The Dos and Don’ts of Government Contracts
Private investors are a funding option that many small businesses fail to seek out.
They’ll want a return on their investment, but investors can provide the capital you need to achieve your goals.
1. Backstage Capital
Backstage Capital is an elite group of investors looking for promising minority-led businesses to support.
Their main goal is investing, but they want to help in ways other than just funding. These investors are all in, providing technical assistance, business education, and professional networks to their chosen founders.
2. Reign Ventures
These angel investors are interested in investing in startups that other investors don’t acknowledge.
Their portfolio includes successful businesses such as SoLo, buzztable, and Bespoke Post.
3. Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs has partnered with other organizations to initiate the One Million Black Women program.
This program’s goal is to invest a billion dollars into companies led by Black women and to provide a million in grants for Black women entrepreneurs.
This organization‘s tagline is “rewards crowdfunding for Black entrepreneurs.”
Post your campaign on their site to raise enough capital to reach your business goals.
5. The Mansa Fund
This fund aims to close the funding gap by providing micro-investments to minority-owned small businesses.
6. SB Opportunity Fund
This fund is giving $100 million to Black, Latinx, and Native American founders as venture capital.
7. Black Founders Fund
This program offers non-dilutive funds for Black founders. It was developed by Google for Startups and has committed to giving $100,000 to fifty different Black founders.
A tradeline is a network of businesses that collaborate to spread good publicity and free word-of-mouth advertising for one another.
They buy goods and services from businesses within the network whenever possible.
The directories below are open to all businesses, from restaurants and barbershops to marketing agencies and tech companies. By adding your business to these directories, you can advertise your company and connect with other entrepreneurs.
This directory allows you to post positive reviews of other businesses and network with other Black entrepreneurs.
2. Shoppe Black
The Shoppe Black website contains a business directory, but it also posts interviews, shout-outs, and other resources for Black-owned businesses.
This Black-owned business networking platform is another excellent tradeline to boost your business exposure. Their website publishes trending businesses every week, which may one day include yours!
5. Locally Focused Directories
There are locally focused directories in cities throughout the nation.
For instance, in Atlanta, you can list on BlackAtlanta, Shoppe Black, and a number of other sites. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware residents have access to the African-American Chamber of Commerce, a membership-based tradeline and advocacy organization.
Mentorship and Advice
Black business owners often lack a mentor — a person or organization that believes in their abilities and can share their business experience and wisdom.
There’s no downplaying the value of a good mentor, especially one who understands the specific struggle you face.
Here’s a list of sources of advisories and mentorship resources for Black SMBs:
1. Black Founders
Black Founders is a group that supports the development of Black-owned tech businesses.
Not only does Black Founders provide a great networking system, but they also host hackathons, events, and conferences to further inspire and support business owners in the Black community.
2. Hello Alice
Hello Alice was mentioned in the funding section above. However, it’s worth mentioning twice because they offer outstanding resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities.
3. National Urban League
The National Urban League is known for education, entrepreneurship, and civil rights. They are not only trying to help African American small businesses but African American citizens.
They are spread out all over the nation, with courses to help empower people with knowledge and opportunity. Their Atlanta branch is particularly active.
4. U.S. Black Chambers
From grants to capital sourcing advice to mentorship and courses, the U.S. Black Chambers provides it all.
5. National Minority Supplier Development Council
This online database connects minority suppliers with new clients. They not only list companies on their website, but they provide those companies with corporate referrals to boost their business.
This council also helps minority businesses locate capital investments and special financing. Plus, it’s a great networking community!
6. Founder First CDC
According to this organization, their goal is to help small businesses reach their $10 million mark and beyond.
They provide coaching and resources and share their strategic expansion programs with their members.
State and Federal Government Assistance
State and federal government assistance programs can vary depending on location, business specifics, and more.
This spreadsheet — created by the software company Gusto — is constantly updated to include all small business aid offered by the federal or state governments.
Now is based in Atlanta, so we stay tuned in to the opportunities for Black-owned businesses in this city.
Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship
RICE is a business generator serving metro Atlanta, created to support Black entrepreneurs in overcoming the unique barriers they face in building businesses.
This Atlanta-based network of investors is looking for Black innovators and company builders to collaborate with. Their mission is to aid in minimizing the economic struggles and challenges that Black-owned businesses face.
Learn about some of the services Now provides:
Working Capital Management | Cash Flow Management |
Successfully running a business is hard enough without worrying about securing enough capital to fund your business needs.
With the resources above, Black small business owners can continue providing their products and services to the world.
Help is out there — you just need to dig for it. Some of these resources take time to apply for, but they are worth the extra effort.