Small-business owners know that the road to success is often a bumpy one, especially if you’re seeking specialized advice or financial assistance as a minority business owner. We asked the OPEN Forum community: What resources can minority business owners turn to for business advice or financing assistance? Are there any resources you’ve used that have been particularly helpful?
It turns out there are a surprising number of opportunities for minority business owners to seek financing assistance and helpful advice. Consider these six resources.
U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
Established in 1969 by Richard Nixon, the MBDA is exclusively dedicated to furthering the success of minority businesses. In fiscal year 2012, the agency helped minority-owned businesses obtain more than $3.6 billion in capital awards and contracts.
The MBDA offers extensive information on grants and loans and government contracts, including current opportunities. The organization also provides a plethora of business advice on its website. You can be inspired by success stories or learn about how to apply for various minority certifications, which helps you earn contracts.
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
OPEN Forum community member Raymond A. Los, president and CEO of The Hamptons Corporation, suggests trying the SBA's extensive services, which include management and technical assistance, training and education as well as help accessing markets and capital, and more specifically the special programs geared toward minority and women-owned businesses. The SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program was specifically created to assist small, disadvantaged businesses in competing in the marketplace. According to the SBA, 8(a) participants can earn in sole-source contracts up to $4 million for goods and services and $6.5 million for manufacturing.
City Minority Business Assistance Programs
Some cities have their own minority business assistance programs, so it pays to call your local economic development department and ask. In Ohio, for instance, the Akron Urban League's Minority Entrepreneur Empowerment Center offers programs for new entrepreneurs, a minority business acceleration program and financial assistance. The Cambridge, Massachusetts Economic Development Department assists minority-owned businesses as well as including each in a minority-owned business directory.
Minority Chamber of Commerce
Affiliated with the National Business Association, the Minority Chamber of Commerce (MCC) is a nonprofit that provides its members with educational opportunities, as well as financing information and assistance with contract bids.
Many local chambers of commerce, like the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, also have their own programs for minorities that offer advice and financial assistance, so it's a good idea to give your local chamber a call and inquire.
A nonprofit organization, SCORE is composed of volunteer business mentors who offer mentorship and educational opportunities, often working one-on-one or in small groups with entrepreneurs seeking assistance. The organization serves all small-business owners, but they do have a focus on minority entrepreneurs, including offering classes, seminars and resources that provide assistance in setting up and operating your minority business. Consult with your local SCORE office to find a program near you.
Community member Lani Gholston is project coordinator for the nonprofit organization the Yavapai Reentry Project. She has found success gaining valuable business information and assistance by participating in a variety of affinity groups.
“A socially based women's group, for instance, may be packed with professionals who can connect you with business partners or with valuable information,” she says. “I currently work in a small community, and the best way to find resources for the nonprofit I work for has been networking indirectly within affinity groups.” Gholston recently joined an affinity group, and in just one meeting, she connected with a major media outlet and met a representative from a firm that is now considering a sponsorship position for one of their upcoming fundraisers.
Helena Reich is a Korean American, who runs the business Swoon Luxe, which features 100 percent handcrafted, luxury exotic-skin handbags, backpacks and accessories. She has had recent luck networking with affinity groups in her industry, including involvement in a forum run by an established clothing designer open to emerging designers who have a prototype.
“The founder of the company has answered my questions about the industry via email, which has been really helpful,” Reich says. “Ask around in your particular industry. You’re bound to find help.”
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This article was originally published on February 28, 2014.