Minority-owned businesses (defined as businesses that are at least 51% owned by people of Asian-Indian, Asian-Pacific, Black, Hispanic or Native American descent) have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce, companies owned by minorities are “feeling a bigger impact from the pandemic, report assistance being more vital and have heightened concern about the pandemic’s impact on the local economy, their businesses and mental health.”
While this has been a challenging year, I believe many minority-owned companies may possess the exact combination of ingenuity and creativity needed to not only survive the pandemic but thrive during it.
The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly made life harder for many companies, but some businesses are uncovering new opportunities and revenue streams.
If you’re a small business owner struggling to keep your company afloat, here are a few tips, from my team to yours, to help your company emerge from the pandemic stronger and more agile than ever:
1. Take advantage of funding opportunities.
There are dozens of funding and grant options available to minority-owned businesses.
The recently passed federal stimulus bill contained additional funding options for minority-owned businesses. Plus, there’s a wealth of private funding opportunities available, including PayPal’s $5 million grant program that provides assistance for Black-owned businesses.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has more information on funding options for minority-owned companies.
2. Get MBE-certified.
MBE stands for minority business enterprise. Getting MBE-certified, through the National Minority Supplier Development Council can provide access to a host of unique benefits, including exclusive contact with corporate purchasing agents, affordable consulting, top-quality technology programs and fully searchable supplier databases, to name a few. MBE-certified businesses also get increased access to loans, training and educational opportunities.
3. Leverage resources.
If you’re looking for ways to grow your business during Covid-19, the best option is to leverage the resources available to you. Here are a few I recommend:
• The 8(a) Business Development Program: Offered by the Small Business Administration, the 8(a) Business Development program seeks to award at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to “small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities.”
• The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA): The MBDA is a program spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Commerce. It offers access to contracting opportunities, grants and capital for small businesses, as well as access to funding from private equity and venture capital firms.
• The Minority Supplier Development Council (MSDC): The MSDC serves as an intermediary between minority-owned companies and organizations that need the products and services they offer. This can help you diversify your customer base and reach new buyers.
I also recommend consulting your local chamber of commerce to identify and learn about local programs meant to assist minority-owned companies.
4. Make it known you’re a minority business.
It seems that now more than ever, companies and customers want to support local, minority-owned businesses. If you have a Google My Business listing or Yelp listing, make sure to tick off the box in your profile that indicates your business is minority-owned.
Put a sign in front of your store (if you have one) or on your website indicating your business is minority-owned. The more awareness you spread, the more likely you are to attract customers looking to support minority-owned businesses.
5. Introduce new services.
According to a McKinsey poll of 1,000 small businesses nationwide, during the pandemic, “more than 40% of minority-owned small businesses have added new services to support their communities and employees, compared with 27% of all respondents.”
Businesses everywhere have been forced to shift gears — what new services can you offer that your customers are in need of?
Our company, for example, introduced a new service: Covid-19 disinfection and cleaning for commercial properties. While we offer specialty cleaning services for infectious disease outbreaks, we shifted gears to focus primarily on Covid-19 cleanings. Adding this service to our lineup has helped us stay afloat and keep our business growing during these tough times.
6. Network with other MBEs.
We’re stronger when we work together. To strengthen your network and expand your access to opportunities, connect with other MBEs in your community and throughout the country.
Start with other companies in your community (do a search through your local chamber of commerce or your state’s economic development agency), and extend your reach from there. Not only does this present possible referral opportunities, but it’s a great way to learn about how other minority-owned companies are navigating today’s challenges.
Looking Forward: Emerging From Covid-19 Stronger Than Ever
While the pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for business owners around the country, minority-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected. Fortunately, there are ways to not only survive this pandemic but thrive during it and emerge with a stronger, more robust business than you had last year.
By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba