Why Mentors Are Important to Black-Owned Businesses
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Mentors can help navigate the choppy seas of small business. They’re the compass that points you toward success. In fact, 92% of small business owners said their mentor had a direct impact on the growth and survival of their business. Yet in one regional survey, less than 40% of Black entrepreneurs had access to a mentor. That disparity can put Black-owned businesses adrift.
Clearing The Decks
Small business owners face a number of obstacles to growth. But for many Black-owned business owners there’s a unique set of obstacles. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation identified the following:
- Access to financial capital – What monetary resources are available to start and maintain a business? Minorities are less likely to receive loans and when they do, it’s for lower dollar amounts and higher interest rates. African-American entrepreneurs receive less than 1% of venture capital money. And, only 12% of Black and Latinx small business owners received the federal stimulus money requested as part of the COVID relief efforts. It’s not that they were less qualified, but rather they needed help in navigating through it.
- Access to social capital – What networking opportunities are available? Bigcartel.com reports few Black business owners have access to successful entrepreneurs in their family or social circles. And yet the ability to network often provides the contacts needed to introduce owners to people who can facilitate growth.
- Access to human capital – What educational resources exist? Work experience and training are important factors in business success. Limited access to these assets can put some Black small business owners at a disadvantage.
Mentors can play a significant role in helping Black business owners clear the deck of these obstacles. They have the knowledge and network contacts to help minority entrepreneurs achieve greater growth.
Finding A Minority-Focused Mentor
Fortunately, the need for minority-focused mentors is gaining recognition. A number of organizations have programs that specialize in helping Black small business owners. Some offer online support which can help expand opportunities in more remote communities. Start with these resources:
- SCORE mentors – This section of their website profiles several minority-focused mentors along with their areas of specialty. It includes a link to search for a mentor in your area. Mentoring services are provided free of charge.
- Enterprising Women of Color Initiative – This is a program of the Minority Business Development Agency. It offers mentoring and coaching resources aimed at promoting economic advancement.
- Code2040 – This initiative focuses on Black and Latinx individuals in the tech sector. They provide mentoring and training opportunities.
- Business For All – This video mentorship program is available on an application basis to selected entrepreneurs. In addition, members at large can collaborate with their business peers online.
- Women’s Business Center – Funded by the Small Business Administration, these centers provide training and mentoring programs aimed at women entrepreneurs. Here’s a link to locate a center in your area.
- MicroMentor – Founded by the global Mercy Corps, this website matches you with volunteer mentors online. Establish a profile identifying your business needs and connect with a compatible mentor from their worldwide database. The average mentoring pair meets one hour per week over three months.
- Chamber of Commerce – Many local chambers offer in-person and virtual networking events. These are opportunities to establish contacts with people who have expertise doing business in your town. Here’s a link to find a chamber in your area. Some locations also have Black Chamber of Commerce networks that specifically focus on Black-owned businesses.
- LinkedIn Groups – While not a one-on-one mentoring possibility, this platform offers networking opportunities within groups of similar interests. You may be able to get mentor recommendations from fellow group members. For example, here’s Business News Daily’s list of entrepreneur-focused groups.
Mentors can help make the difference between success and struggle, especially for Black business owners. Finding the right mentor is key. Start with this list of minority-focused mentors to find the right match for your business.