Report: Entrepreneurship is Key to Building Wealth for Black Atlantans

Posted March 10, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog entrepreneurshipiskeytobuilding 2018

Rein­vest­ing in Atlanta’s African-Amer­i­can entre­pre­neurs can serve as a path­way to build­ing com­mu­ni­ty wealth, accord­ing to a new report from Pros­per­i­ty Now, a non­prof­it ded­i­cat­ed to build­ing wealth for those in need.

Advanc­ing Col­lec­tive Pros­per­i­ty Through Entre­pre­neur­ship in Atlanta out­lines strate­gies for sup­port­ing African-Amer­i­can busi­ness own­ers and explains how this work can have a far-reach­ing impact. African Amer­i­can-owned busi­ness­es are more like­ly to hire employ­ees of col­or. They give back to their com­mu­ni­ties through dona­tions of time, mon­ey and ser­vices,” write the report’s authors. And, Black entre­pre­neurs can play key lead­er­ship and men­tor­ship roles that invite oth­er work­ers of col­or into the world of self-employ­ment and busi­ness ownership.”

The report, which uti­lizes data dis­ag­gre­gat­ed by race and eth­nic­i­ty, also describes the harsh eco­nom­ic real­i­ties fac­ing the city’s black fam­i­lies. It reveals that African-Amer­i­can fam­i­lies in Atlanta are almost three times as like­ly as their white coun­ter­parts to live in liq­uid asset pover­ty,” a finance state defined as insuf­fi­cient sav­ings to cov­er three months of pover­ty-lev­el expens­es. The city’s African-Amer­i­can work­ers are also near­ly five times like­li­er than white work­ers to be unem­ployed, and the aver­age black-owned busi­ness in Atlanta is val­ued at over 11 times less than the aver­age white-owned busi­ness, accord­ing to the report.

In 2017, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Atlanta Civic Site and The Kende­da Fund launched a col­lab­o­ra­tive com­prised of pro­fes­sion­als from com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions, pub­lic agen­cies and oth­er Atlanta insti­tu­tions. With facil­i­ta­tion by Pros­per­i­ty Now, the group iden­ti­fied ways of con­nect­ing African-Amer­i­can entre­pre­neurs with cap­i­tal, tech­ni­cal assis­tance and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties. These mem­bers also set an ambi­tious goal: Sup­port 1,000 African Amer­i­can-owned busi­ness­es in 1,000 days by help­ing 900 busi­ness­es hire its first employ­ee and help­ing anoth­er 100 busi­ness­es offer liv­ing wages to exist­ing staff.

Advanc­ing Col­lec­tive Pros­per­i­ty shares three strate­gies for real­iz­ing this goal:

  1. Share and cre­ate data that iden­ti­fy and quan­ti­fy African-Amer­i­can busi­ness­es. This infor­ma­tion can con­nect entre­pre­neurs to exist­ing small-busi­ness ser­vices in a coor­di­nat­ed way and serve as the basis of an ongo­ing cen­sus of Atlanta’s black busi­ness owners.
  2. Estab­lish an eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and entre­pre­neur­ship insti­tute. This insti­tute would work to grow eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties among African-Amer­i­can busi­ness own­ers and sup­port efforts to build a pipeline of entre­pre­neurs ready to seize oppor­tu­ni­ties. It would also arm com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ers with the data and mes­sages need­ed to make a region­al case for the val­ue of black entrepreneurs.
  3. Expand pub­lic pro­cure­ment and con­tract­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for African-Amer­i­can entre­pre­neurs. This strat­e­gy, which would move black busi­ness own­ers into new mar­kets, relies on state and local poli­cies incen­tiviz­ing work with minor­i­ty- and women-owned businesses.

All three strate­gies, while in need of fur­ther refine­ment, are a great start, accord­ing to Janelle Williams, who leads the Casey Foundation’s eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty work in Atlanta. These strate­gies rep­re­sent new approach­es to invest­ing, ser­vice deliv­ery, small busi­ness advis­ing and sys­tems change,” says Williams. And this work — reimag­in­ing new pos­si­bil­i­ties for entre­pre­neurs of col­or — can help Atlanta nar­row the gap in racial-wealth inequality.”

Learn more about Casey’s efforts to expand oppor­tu­ni­ties for black entre­pre­neurs in Atlanta

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