Baltimore Fund Backs Entrepreneurs of Color During the Pandemic

Posted August 23, 2021, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Black man wearing a white apron stands outside a food shop with his arms crossed across his chest.

When it launched in ear­ly 2020, the Bal­ti­more Small Busi­ness Devel­op­ment Fund announced its aim of strength­en­ing the city’s small busi­ness ecosys­tem by help­ing Black, Indige­nous, Lati­no and Asian entre­pre­neurs gain the resources nec­es­sary to grow and thrive.

Bal­ti­more busi­ness­es owned by peo­ple of col­or are gen­er­al­ly small­er and less sta­ble than those of white busi­ness own­ers, accord­ing to research. Entre­pre­neurs of col­or have also strug­gled to access ade­quate financ­ing from major banks, and the city’s Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment Finan­cial Insti­tu­tions — which help finance busi­ness­es that tra­di­tion­al lenders have turned away — were underdeveloped.

The fund, sup­port­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions, focused on giv­ing busi­ness own­ers bet­ter access to local financ­ing and con­ven­ing orga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide tech­ni­cal assis­tance to entre­pre­neurs of col­or. It shift­ed into swift action dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, since many of these busi­ness own­ers need­ed emer­gency fund­ing to survive.

The fund part­nered with the Bal­ti­more Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion and the May­or’s Office of Minor­i­ty and Women-Owned Busi­ness Devel­op­ment to estab­lish the Small Busi­ness Tech­ni­cal Assis­tance Net­work (TA Net­work). Par­tic­i­pat­ing orga­ni­za­tions sup­port­ed small busi­ness devel­op­ment — includ­ing Inno­va­tion Works and Bal­ti­more Corps — or had notably strong rela­tion­ships and cred­i­bil­i­ty among entre­pre­neurs of color. 

So far, the TA Net­work has helped more than 2,500 small busi­ness­es access financ­ing — includ­ing an esti­mat­ed $40 mil­lion in pub­lic recov­ery fund­ing — to stay afloat and even grow dur­ing the pandemic.

Busi­ness­es that have been his­tor­i­cal­ly left behind were the ones most adverse­ly affect­ed eco­nom­i­cal­ly and had the most dif­fi­cul­ties access­ing aid,” said Col­in Tar­bert, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Bal­ti­more Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion. The TA Net­work was able to secure part­ner­ships with a range of finan­cial assis­tance providers and facil­i­tate access to resources for busi­ness own­ers of col­or across the city.”

The TA Net­work in Action

The TA Network’s sup­port has included:

  • Con­nect­ing small busi­ness­es to fund­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. Net­work part­ners helped small busi­ness­es iden­ti­fy and apply for pub­lic and pri­vate fund­ing, includ­ing fund­ing avail­able via pub­lic lend­ing pro­grams, such as the fed­er­al Pay­check Pro­tec­tion Pro­gram and Eco­nom­ic Injury Dis­as­ter Loans.
  • Link­ing com­pa­nies to com­mu­ni­ty lenders. Two net­work part­ners are Bal­ti­more-based Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment Finan­cial Insti­tu­tions that serve small busi­ness­es of col­or. Oth­er net­work part­ners con­nect­ed busi­ness­es to far off Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment Finan­cial Insti­tu­tions, includ­ing the Cal­i­for­nia-based Lendis­try and the Accion Oppor­tu­ni­ty Fund that pri­or­i­tize serv­ing busi­ness­es in under­served communities. 
  • Engag­ing small busi­ness­es of col­or. With sup­port from the Casey Foun­da­tion and Open Soci­ety Insti­tute-Bal­ti­more, the fund select­ed 10 orga­ni­za­tions — includ­ing the Greater Bal­ti­more Black Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue Black Arts Dis­trict — to dri­ve out­reach efforts and con­nect entre­pre­neurs of col­or to TA Net­work services.
  • Serv­ing small busi­ness­es bet­ter. Net­work part­ners received tech­ni­cal assis­tance and train­ing aimed at bet­ter serv­ing small busi­ness­es, and the Bal­ti­more Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion shared infor­ma­tion on financ­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and var­i­ous lenders.

Mov­ing Forward

The TA Network’s approach is turn­ing heads. In June 2021, it inspired a com­mit­tee of glob­al experts to select Bal­ti­more as a final­ist for Bloomberg Phil­an­thropies’ 2021 Glob­al May­ors Chal­lenge. The com­pe­ti­tion looks to iden­ti­fy and accel­er­ate the most ambi­tious ideas that cities have devel­oped in response to the coronavirus. 

Today, the TA Net­work hopes to con­tin­ue expand­ing — grow­ing in the num­ber of busi­ness­es sup­port­ed, ser­vices offered, and finan­cial insti­tu­tions involved.

We’re hap­py to have helped start this move­ment in sup­port­ing small busi­ness­es and aid­ing them in obtain­ing cap­i­tal that is so vital to their sur­vival,” says Tal­ib Horne, direc­tor of the Casey Foundation’s Bal­ti­more Civic Site. We hope to see this work expand in ways that will bol­ster equi­table invest­ment in small busi­ness­es and eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits for all of Baltimore’s communities.”

Learn about invest­ing in Baltimore’s com­mu­ni­ties of color

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