More Black and Hispanic Entrepreneurs Are Open for Business

These programs are particularly widespread at community and technical colleges like Hillsborough. Community colleges serve the majority of students from underrepresented groups, said Martha Parham, senior vice president at the American Association of Community Colleges.

Historically Black Bowie State University, for example, opened a $42 million entrepreneurship academy in August that includes space for student businesses and a residence hall for more than 500 students.

Some entrepreneurship educators say higher education institutions should focus on helping existing Hispanic businesses expand rather than encouraging new businesses. Jerry Porras, a Stanford University emeritus professor of organizational behavior and change, coordinates the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurial Initiative, which helps established Hispanic businesses with revenues of at least $1 million expand. It offers a seven-week program on how to scale a business and provides mentors, connections to potential investors (though no guarantees of loans or investments), and connections to a network of Hispanic-owned businesses.

The businesses owned by nearly 800 alumni of the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurial Initiative have combined annual revenues of about $5 billion, more than 39,000 employees, and operations in 31 states, Porras said.

Even seasoned entrepreneurs face long odds that do not necessarily improve with time. Roughly one-third of new businesses fail within two years, half within five years, and two-thirds within 10 years, according to a US Small Business Administration analysis of new business survival rates from 1994 to 2018.

Minority entrepreneurs face additional challenges; on average, they have less household wealth and less access to mainstream grants, loans, and equity investors, and they often serve less affluent communities than white-owned businesses.

Entrepreneurship programs can help them get loans, grants, and investment. Eighty-two percent of Hispanic alumni of the Stanford program got SBA-backed Paycheck Protection Program loans in the midst of the pandemic, for example, while overall just 28 percent of white-owned and 18 percent of Hispanic-owned businesses of a similar size got the loans, Stanford research shows.

The Hillsborough entrepreneurship program Tiffany Bell attended has mentored and provided seed funding for Bell and 25 other entrepreneurs over the past two years, including five Hispanic students, seven Black students, and 14 female students, said Hillsborough professor Beth Kerly.

These entrepreneurs share one attribute: They’re all still in the game. Despite launching just before or during the pandemic, 25 of the startup businesses are up and running, and one has been sold, according to Andy Gold, another Hillsborough professor and a former Wall Street investor who coleads the program with Kerly.

He credited “ridiculously intrusive mentoring” as the key to this success.

Gold, Kerly, and a collection of volunteer mentors check in with their students after graduation. “Before we talk about all your good news for your company, you’d have to tell me what your monthly revenues are and how that compares to last month, year over year, plus answer a whole bunch of other financial questions,” Gold said.

Family tradition leads some Black and Hispanic Americans to start their own businesses. Dewayne Kimble, 52, graduated from an entrepreneurship training program offered through Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families in partnership with Hillsborough Community College. After retiring from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Kimble, who is Black, launched a veterans benefits consulting business that now has almost 150 clients, he said.

Many of Kimble’s great aunts and uncles from southeast Missouri were entrepreneurs. “One of those siblings bought a bus,” he said, “fixed it up and began offering bus services … Then he started buying old cars, fixing them up and selling them. And then my grandmother had two other brothers who owned land and farmed it. And another sibling, an older sister, had a boutique selling women’s clothing on the South Side of Chicago.”

Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs also start businesses aimed at giving back to their communities. David Favela left his job as a global business manager at Hewlett Packard in 2018 to work full-time at the sideline business he started in 2013, Border X Brewing in San Diego. Border X brews and serves Mexican-themed beverages such as Blood Saison, a bright red, tart beer inspired by a Mexican hibiscus tea, in three taprooms in working-class Hispanic neighborhoods in Southern California.

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