Siliconeer | Need For Green – Small Business In A Post Pandemic World | Siliconeer

Siliconeer | Need For Green – Small Business In A Post Pandemic World | Siliconeer

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, accounting for over 33 million enterprises and 93 million jobs. However, starting and growing a small business is not easy, especially for women and marginalized communities who face systemic barriers to accessing funding, resources, and networks. To address these challenges and opportunities, Ethnic Media Services hosted a virtual briefing on exploring the challenges of accessing funding to start up and expand a small business on July 14, 2023, featuring a diverse panel of experts and entrepreneurs.


A report by the Small Business Administration (SBA) found that “women-owned businesses receive only 16% of conventional small business loans, and Black-owned businesses receive only 2% of venture capital funding, despite being the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs.”

Charles Phillips, a board member of the Black Economic Alliance, shared his insights on the challenges and opportunities of starting and scaling a small business. He emphasized the importance of having a clear vision, a strong team, and a flexible strategy. He said, “You have to be willing to pivot and adapt to changing market conditions, customer needs, and technological innovations. You also have to be willing to take risks, learn from failures, and persevere through setbacks.”

Phillips also discussed the role of technology in empowering small businesses to compete with larger firms and reach new markets. He believes tech, “is a great equalizer that can help small businesses to automate processes, reduce costs, and improve customer experiences. It can also help them to access new sources of funding, such as crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, and online marketplaces.” However, he cautioned technology “is not a silver bullet that can solve all the problems of small businesses. It requires a strategic approach, a skilled workforce, and a supportive ecosystem.”

Luz Urrutia, the CEO of Opportunity Fund, a nonprofit lender that provides microloans to underserved entrepreneurs, shared her organization’s mission and impact. She said, “Opportunity Fund is committed to helping small business owners who are left behind by the traditional financial system. We provide loans, coaching, and networking opportunities to women, people of color, immigrants, and low-income individuals who have the talent and the drive to succeed but lack the resources and the connections.”

Urrutia also discussed the challenges and opportunities of microfinance, which is a form of lending that targets small businesses with low credit scores and limited collateral. She said, “Microfinance is not a charity or a handout. It is a business model that relies on social impact and financial sustainability. We charge interest rates that reflect the risk and the cost of capital, but we also provide value-added services that help our borrowers to improve their credit scores, their financial literacy, and their business skills.”

The third speaker, Ana Harvey, the SBA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, shared the agency’s programs and services that support women entrepreneurs. She said, “The SBA is committed to leveling the playing field for women-owned businesses by providing access to capital, counseling, and contracting opportunities. We have a network of Women’s Business Centers across the country that offer training, mentoring, and networking events. We also have a Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program that helps women-owned firms to compete for government contracts.”

Harvey also discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses and the SBA’s response. She said, “The pandemic has been a devastating blow to many small businesses, especially those owned by women and minorities. However, the SBA has been working tirelessly to provide relief and recovery programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. We have also increased our outreach and education efforts to ensure that all small businesses know their options and can access the help they need.”

Maria Contreras-Sweet, founder of Contreras-Sweet Enterprises, shared her journey as an immigrant entrepreneur and her vision for a more inclusive and innovative economy. She came to the US, “as a young girl with a dream of starting my own business. I faced many obstacles, such as language barriers, cultural differences, and lack of capital. But I also had a strong sense of purpose, a supportive family, and a resilient spirit. I started my first business, a community bank, and later became the SBA Administrator under President Obama. I saw firsthand the power of entrepreneurship to transform lives and communities.”

Maria discussed her new venture, We Are All Human, a nonprofit that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and beyond. She said, “We Are All Human is a movement that aims to change the narrative around diversity and inclusion from a compliance issue to a business imperative. We work with companies, governments, and civil society to create a culture of belonging where everyone can thrive and contribute. We also celebrate the achievements and the stories of diverse leaders who are breaking barriers and inspiring others.”

They highlighted the challenges and opportunities of starting and scaling a small business, especially for women and marginalized communities. The speakers shared their insights, experiences, and solutions to address these issues, such as having a clear vision, a strong team, a flexible strategy, and access to funding, resources, and networks. They also emphasized the importance of technology, microfinance, government programs, and social impact. Finally, they called for a more inclusive and innovative economy that values diversity, equity, and inclusion as a source of strength and resilience.

This content was originally published here.