The Importance of Supporting Black-Owned Businesses in Atlanta

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

A Black woman sits at a desk and types on a laptop.

Black entre­pre­neurs in Atlanta are launch­ing inno­v­a­tive prod­ucts and offer­ing new ideas to help their com­mu­ni­ties — despite bar­ri­ers that make it dif­fi­cult for them to gain access to the resources, fund­ing, train­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance nec­es­sary for them to grow and thrive. 

Inequitable and long­stand­ing poli­cies and trends — such as imbal­ances in lend­ing and lim­it­ed fam­i­ly wealth — have hurt Black Atlantans and oth­er res­i­dents of col­or who wish to own and grow busi­ness­es. In recent years, Atlanta’s econ­o­my also has expand­ed and trans­formed, leav­ing many Black-owned busi­ness­es fac­ing the threat of dis­place­ment as new, large com­pa­nies and devel­op­ments move in to com­pete with them. 

The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic also has caused strain for many busi­ness­es of col­or in Atlanta, which tend to be small­er than those owned by white peo­ple. A 2018 report found that the aver­age Black-owned busi­ness in Atlanta is 11 times less valu­able than the aver­age white-owned busi­ness. Black entre­pre­neurs, like so many oth­er busi­ness own­ers, have had to rethink how they reach cus­tomers and adjust their busi­ness mod­els to remain nim­ble amid eco­nom­ic uncertainty.

Atlanta isn’t liv­ing up to its rep­u­ta­tion as a haven for thriv­ing Black com­mu­ni­ties,” says Eri­ka Smith, a senior asso­ciate with the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. That promise isn’t shared by every­one, and that’s why it’s impor­tant for pub­lic and pri­vate lead­ers to take bold steps to help all Black-owned busi­ness­es thrive.”

Reduc­ing the Racial Wealth Gap

Advanc­ing busi­ness growth in com­mu­ni­ties of col­or is one way of fos­ter­ing equi­table out­comes across Atlanta. Busi­ness assets and sav­ings allow for greater finan­cial diver­si­fi­ca­tion and deliv­er high­er returns, on aver­age, when com­pared to homes, cars and oth­er tan­gi­ble assets, accord­ing to a 2017 report from the Aspen Insti­tute. In oth­er words, entre­pre­neur­ship can be an effec­tive way for peo­ple of col­or to cre­ate wealth and reduce disparities.

Black busi­ness own­ers are also wealth­i­er than their peers who do not own busi­ness­es. And many Black busi­ness own­ers hire from with­in their com­mu­ni­ties, which helps to fuel job oppor­tu­ni­ties in neigh­bor­hoods of col­or, accord­ing to a report from the Asso­ci­a­tion for Enter­prise Oppor­tu­ni­ty.

The Casey Foundation’s Sup­port for Busi­ness­es Owned by Peo­ple of Color 

Both pub­lic and pri­vate insti­tu­tions can play a role in sup­port­ing Atlanta’s busi­ness own­ers of color.

Here are some exam­ples of orga­ni­za­tions and ini­tia­tives the Foun­da­tion has sup­port­ed that seek to expand and sup­port Black-owned busi­ness­es in Atlanta:

Atlanta Wealth Build­ing Ini­tia­tive (AWBI)

The Atlanta Wealth Build­ing Ini­tia­tive (AWBI) uses var­i­ous strate­gies to spur eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty and expand oppor­tu­ni­ties for African Amer­i­can busi­ness­es, including:

  • build­ing work­er-owned cooperatives; 
  • acquir­ing land to devel­op afford­able, com­mu­ni­ty-con­trolled properties;
  • pro­vid­ing tech­ni­cal assis­tance and training; 
  • run­ning a peer learn­ing group; and 
  • offer­ing busi­ness own­ers flex­i­ble financ­ing options, includ­ing loans, guar­an­tees and grants.

In April 2021, AWBI launched the Advanc­ing Enter­prise Pros­per­i­ty: 1,000 Black Busi­ness­es in 1,000 Days” cam­paign. Through tech­ni­cal assis­tance and lever­ag­ing pro­cure­ment con­tracts with var­i­ous anchor insti­tu­tions, AWBI aims to help 1,000 Black-owned busi­ness­es in Atlanta either hire their first employ­ee or offer liv­ing wages to cur­rent work­ers — focus­ing pri­mar­i­ly on com­pa­nies in high-growth sec­tors in Atlanta’s South­east, South­west and North­west areas, as well as along the Atlanta Belt­Line. AWBI has also for­mal­ized a part­ner­ship with Emory Uni­ver­si­ty to help the insti­tu­tion devel­op a more inclu­sive pro­cure­ment process that pri­or­i­tizes ven­dors owned by peo­ple of color. 

Vil­lage Micro Fund

The Vil­lage Micro Fund pro­vides a 15-week busi­ness boot­camp for Black entre­pre­neurs in the Greater Atlanta area to help them learn how to start and run busi­ness­es — includ­ing help­ing them access new cus­tomers and mar­kets and train­ing them to become strong com­pa­ny representatives. 

Once busi­ness own­ers com­plete the pro­gram, they can access invest­ment or loans from the fund or get tech­ni­cal assis­tance to pur­sue var­i­ous financ­ing options. Par­tic­i­pants can also get access to shared staff, such as attor­neys and accountants.

The Ke’Nekt

The Ke’Nekt brings Black busi­ness­es togeth­er to explore coop­er­a­tive mod­els of busi­ness devel­op­ment — includ­ing those in which com­pa­nies pool fund­ing and share office space and back-end sup­port staff. The Ke’Nekt’s goal is to pre­serve lega­cy Black-owned busi­ness­es in Atlanta that are under threat of dis­place­ment by pre­sent­ing a dif­fer­ent mod­el for growth and cre­at­ing new ways for Black entre­pre­neurs to obtain financ­ing and access to busi­ness edu­ca­tion and support.

The Vil­lage Mar­ket Atlanta

The Vil­lage Mar­ket Atlanta hosts in-per­son mar­ket­places and online retail spaces for Black entre­pre­neurs and pro­vides them with edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams and assis­tance access­ing financ­ing. Since launch­ing in 2016, the orga­ni­za­tion has cul­ti­vat­ed what it calls a cir­cu­lar Black econ­o­my” — dri­ven by its com­mit­ment to pur­chas­ing Black-made prod­ucts, hir­ing Black-owned pro­fes­sion­al ser­vices and ensur­ing every dol­lar it spends lands in the hands of Black com­mu­ni­ties — that’s val­ued at more than $4 million.

The Vil­lage Mar­ket Atlanta will also serve as a com­mu­ni­ty part­ner at the Casey-sup­port­ed Pitts­burgh Yards project, offer­ing edu­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grams for busi­ness ten­ants with­in the Nia Build­ing™ — A Place of Purpose⁽℠⁾.

Learn more about reduc­ing dis­par­i­ties in Atlanta

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