In 2017, the Foundation for Business Equity (FBE) was created to help address the widening income and wealth gap in Greater Boston experienced most acutely by Black and Latinx communities. We focus on scaling businesses of color to create greater wealth for business owners and more jobs with family-sustaining wages in our urban communities.
The racial wealth gap experienced today is the result of a steady accumulation of unfortunate public and private sector actions and policies over centuries. At FBE, we believe that to truly create collaborative ecosystems and programs that remove structural barriers, we must identify, acknowledge, and address each tier of a system that has adversely affected people of color for hundreds of years. At FBE, we recognize:
History: Business and wealth disparities for communities of color are part of American history. The institution of slavery and colonization of Caribbean and Latin American nations, followed by the Jim Crow laws and redlining, are some of the aggregated reasons that have led to disparities of wealth and differently resourced social networks for Black and Latinx business owners.
Leadership with lived experience makes a difference: Our organization’s leaders represent the entrepreneurs we work with. We understand the challenges of the small business ecosystem, specifically for entrepreneurs and businesses of color, because we are entrepreneurs ourselves. This provides a unique vantage point in identifying opportunities to bring in resources where they are needed the most to help business owners of color succeed. This allows us to have frank discussions up front about co-investing in the process of growth.
Accessibility: Networks of social capital and wealth are critical to enterprise growth – and an advantage not often afforded to Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. We are committed to providing entrepreneurs and businesses of color with access to the necessary tools for enterprise growth, namely strategic planning for their businesses, growth capital, and access to networks and people who can further foster business development.
For sustainable impact, trust takes time to build: Trust isn’t built overnight. At FBE, we prioritize creating a space where authentic and deep relationships between strategic advisors, or mentors, and entrepreneurs can thrive. We recruit highly skilled advisors who specialize in diagnosing and prioritizing the critical next strategic steps of the business they are embedded in. The trust that is built early opens a pathway for the honest conversations necessary for our advisors to do the real important work. When trust is at the forefront of the work and a business owner is open to hearing different and sometimes difficult perspectives, true entrepreneurial potential can be reached.
FBE’s signature program, the Business Equity Initiative, brings together strategic advisory services and growth capital to help businesses of color grow revenues, create jobs and revitalize communities. Over the past three years more than 60 businesses have enrolled in the program, with $7 million of growth capital invested. The program, which could serve as a national model for leveling the playing field for Black and Latinx business owners, has proven highly successful, resulting in 205 new full-time equivalent jobs, and $120 million in growth revenue with the first 5 cohorts of businesses.
What’s more, we know that businesses armed with this support and new knowledge fared better than others going into, during and coming out of the pandemic. We saw business owners better prepared to adjust their operations in order to continue realizing a profit when the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Many applied what they learned and through their strategic advisors’ advice, were better able to pivot and respond quickly. They refocused to accommodate necessary and unplanned shifts, and this resulted in both survival and for many substantial growth. Said one CEO, “We’ve hired more locally, our sales were higher, and our clients have turned to us for support during this time.” Another CEO said, “This has been a game-changer for me.”
We have a relentless focus on strengthening each part of the local small business of color ecosystem. We are able to report that 99 percent of the businesses we have worked with are still in business, even after the early disruption of this hundred-year pandemic. We are humbly just getting started.
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