This is a guest post for the MELD Coworking blog written by Mihir Korke.
When seeking capital to start or grow their small businesses, minority entrepreneurs have historically had a more difficult time gaining access to loans and other funding resources. This was already true pre-COVID, but the pandemic has made it even harder for many Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American small business owners.1
While some discrepancies are best addressed at the municipal, state, or federal levels, there are steps you can take to help support minority-owned businesses – whether as a fellow business owner or as an everyday consumer.
Below are some useful tips to help you get started.
1. Shop minority businesses
The simplest and most direct way to support minority-owned businesses is to frequent those establishments to buy their goods and services. And, remember not to limit yourself to local brick-and-mortar businesses. Consider shopping on minority-owned online stores and eCommerce websites.
2. Offer valuable feedback
One of the best ways to help a small business improve is to offer honest feedback about your own personal experience. Explain directly to the owner what you did and didn’t like. And if you aren’t happy with the service, outline steps they could take to keep your business in the future.
No one enjoys hearing criticism; however, if your critique is both friendly and sincere, that entrepreneur will likely thank you for your suggestions.
3. Spread the word
Visiting the same restaurant every week is a great way to demonstrate your support. Bringing friends and family members with you is an even more powerful display of your commitment. Word-of-mouth marketing can often be more effective than print advertising or online ads. That’s because the recommendation is coming from a trusted source.
Buying vouchers and gift cards can help motivate the fence-sitters in your inner circle. These incentives have the added benefit of generating near-term sales for whichever small business you’re supporting.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget to share your positive experiences on social media and review sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List. These platforms help your message reach a wider audience, which in turn, helps small business owners reach a broader network of customers.
4. Lobby, lobby, lobby
As mentioned above, many of the financing difficulties that minority entrepreneurs face are best left to policymakers. As a constituent, you can still voice your support for programs and initiatives designed to widen access to capital for underrepresented groups. Don’t forget that you have elected representatives at nearly every level of government – from the White House to city hall.
How Business Owners Can Support Minority Entrepreneurs
Any regular consumer can implement the above tips. However, if you already own or operate a small business, there are additional steps you can take to show your support for minority entrepreneurs.
5. Partner with minority-owned businesses
This is an expansion of the first tip. As a business owner, you can forge supplier, customer, and consultative relationships with minority-owned partners. This is especially important if the scope of your work can really make an impact.
6. Facilitate networking and relationship-building
Almost every municipality has chambers of commerce and industry groups. These organizations help facilitate many of the networking opportunities that help businesses grow.
While there aren’t as many in-person networking events as there used to be due to the pandemic, it’s still possible to “virtually” connect minority entrepreneurs with business partners you trust, such as financial institutions, accounting firms, and other organizations that can help take entrepreneurial companies to a higher level.
7. Mentor minority entrepreneurs
Still remember the struggle of launching your own business? It wasn’t easy, but with enough time, determination, and help, you eventually got there.
Now that you understand the landscape a little better, consider sharing your experience and insights with budding entrepreneurs who are starting out on the same journey. You don’t have to set up a formal mentorship program to get started. Just be on the lookout for any local talent who could potentially benefit from your guidance.
Despite facing more financing obstacles, minorities own approximately 30% of U.S. businesses, and pre-COVID they employed a staggering seven million workers.2 As such, you shouldn’t view your support of minority-owned businesses as charity. Rather, consider yourself a patriot who is helping to strengthen the economy and create even more jobs for fellow Americans.
1 “COVID-19’s effect on minority-owned small businesses in the United States,” McKinsey & Company, 27 May 2020
2 “Minority-Owned Businesses: Beyond the Statistics,” Benetrends Financial, 11 February 2020
About the Author
Mihir Korke is Head of Acquisition at Clover Network, a leader in small business credit card processing and POS systems. Clover specializes in restaurant, retail, and personal and professional service payment solutions. With desktop and mobile POS systems, contactless payments, solutions for curbside pickup and online ordering, loyalty and rewards, Clover has multiple solutions to meet your business’s needs.