Report: Entrepreneurship is Key to Building Wealth for Black Atlantans

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

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