There have been a few times this year that I thought we wouldn’t make it.
When I started The zen bin in 2018, I wrote detailed business plans, saved up startup capital, and relied heavily on family and friends. Of course we had contingency plans for unexpected trouble, but every business owner hopes they never have to use them.
My contingency plans went out the window when we saw we had more than a year of pandemic shutdowns and slowdowns ahead of us.
Like most companies, we were overwhelmed. We had to close completely for seventeen months, and even when we were able to reopen, it was of limited capacity. With the job to close on site, all of our contractors were forced to stay home and unemployed while they were in one of the most emotional times for our community. Our team had to get creative with how we would connect to support the general well-being of our communities during the country’s shutdown. We persevered, but sometimes only barely.
The hurdles are higher for a color entrepreneur. When building The zen container, the most important driver was access to seed capital. but Studies have shown that white entrepreneurs can bring far more personal equity to their new businesses than black entrepreneurs because white American families almost do 10 times as much wealth as Hispanic or black American families.
While inequalities existed before the pandemic, they have gotten worse over the past year. Beyond the physical toll of COVID-19, which has affected communities of color, including black, indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian-American communities, heavier As white companies, colored companies had less safety net to fall back on, were closed and have more often had it harder Obtaining loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. Studied last summer showed that the pandemic closed black-owned companies more than twice as fast as white-owned companies. It all leads to the deeply unequal recovery that we are just beginning.
The journey ahead can seem daunting, but the good news is that I now have a much better idea of what it will take to build a just path back and put businesses like mine on an even footing.
First and foremost, investment needs to be made in companies that include people of color from the public, private and nonprofit sectors. 12th Months ago I signed up for the. Applied Comcast RISE-program that has invested in nearly 4,700 black-owned companies across the country with cash grants, technology updates and marketing services since late last year. I received a tech makeover for The Zen Bin that gave me relief when it was needed most. We were able to get free internet services and two iPads for our check-in desks, as well as security cameras, we’re so grateful.
We’re not the only ones. Comcast RISE plans to designate 13,000 recipients by 2022. We need similar commitments from other companies to level the playing field for black business owners.
Federal, state, and local recovery programs must target minority entrepreneurs. Too many of the existing relief efforts had or were limited in their window of application First come first servewhich disadvantages companies that are already starting from scratch. Local organizations like the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce can be useful allies in reaching out to businesses belonging to historically disadvantaged groups.
Finally, financial institutions need better guard rails to ensure they don’t discriminate against non-white business owners. There are still barriers for minority entrepreneurs to access to seed capital, and controlling balance sheets is the only way to ensure that all businesses start up on an equal footing.
That way, in the next crisis, you will have fewer businesses starting from the back and we will all find our way to recovery much faster. For all of us, this is a business plan that is worth sticking to.