Many of the answers to inclusion start from within.
Inclusive economics is the concept of ensuring that those who are part of historically disenfranchised, marginalized and disadvantaged communities have the same opportunity to engage in capitalism and successful entrepreneurship. When people speak about disadvantaged businesses they are usually talking about ethnic-minority, women, LGBTQ+ and veteran-owned businesses. These populations are often challenged in terms of the lack of economic inclusion and opportunity.
Typically, the reason this disadvantage occurs is because access is difficult to capital, key networks, experience, mentors and a business knowledge base. These are all necessary support systems to launch, grow and sustain a business. If you are in those disadvantaged communities, finding someone to coach you, engage you or answer your questions may be difficult.
Minority and disadvantaged business owners face a variety of challenges in the marketplace. Some of the most pressing challenges include:
■ Lack of access to capital.
■ Employers lack of access to skilled employees.
■ Lack of talent necessary to facilitate and grow a business.
■ An inability to take on sizeable contracts.
■ Not having the right people, systems, equipment or bandwidth in place to take advantage of opportunities.
■ Lack of personal and professional networks to provide guidance or growth.
■ Networking opportunities to create joint ventures or collaborations to acquire contracts are often not available.
■ The general misconception that ethnic-minority or women-owned businesses do not offer the same level of quality as a majority-owned competing business.
7 Ways to Combat the Challenges Faced by Disadvantaged and Minority-Owned Businesses
These issues are real and make the state of minority-owned businesses very vulnerable. To approach this vulnerability requires a level of intentionality and the responsibility for this rests on three parties: the actual minority business owners, the general consumers and the corporate community.
Here are seven important things these parties must do:
1. Educate yourself on the Why
Why is it important for us to care about this topic? There needs to be purpose and benefit for us to support minority-owned businesses. The purpose is in the economic benefit. Minority-owned businesses in America account for $1 trillion in gross receipts—and support 7-8 million jobs.
2. Don’t speak in a shaming attitude
This conversation is meant to bring awareness. Shaming is counterproductive. But, we do need to help people feel knowledgeable about the benefit of minority-owned businesses so they can get on board (and create buy-in “because of” and not “in spite of”).
3. Minority communities need to invest in themselves and recognize their own strength and value
For whatever reason, minority populations do not have the same level of confidence and boldness about their value that majority counterparts do. Competing in the marketplace is already hard, so minority and women businesses have no room for error. Hone your craft and trade and stay up to speed on the latest knowledge, technologies and business acumen.
Once a business owner develops more skills and capabilities, their confidence in their strength and value can grow. Many disadvantaged business owners are in a rut where they are always working in the business which leaves no room for them to work on their business. If you’re not focusing on strategic vision and growth strategy, you’re going to stay where you are.
4. Have Thick Skin and Celebrate the Win
Minority business owners need to have thicker skin than most. If you are a woman, ethnic or cultural minority-owned business, acknowledge and make the most of small wins. Don’t get caught up in the process or sit around waiting for the right big opportunity to happen. Become inspired and take action. Strengthen your psyche and celebrate each and every win—big or small. These mini celebrations help to provide self-value and strengthen your mindset.
5. Support and Invest in Each Other
Minority-owned businesses need to invest in each other. If one of us wins, we all win. I have the fortune of knowing Maggie Anderson and her whole platform is about supporting Black-owned businesses. For one whole year, her family only purchased items and services from Black-owned businesses. Investing in each other also includes creating partnerships, collaborating, doing business with each other and establishing mentor/protégé relationships. If we are not supporting each other, how can we expect our counterparts to support us? NIKA WHITE»
6. Support by the General Consumer
Just as minority-owned businesses need to support each other, the general consumer also needs to support minority and women-owned businesses. Not only does this provide obvious capital and economic benefit, but it provides a social benefit as well.
Consumers who have a good experience with a business need to refer that business to someone else. Or, if they didn’t have a good experience, that business owner needs to know. Provide feedback, you can help them solve the problem and improve.
Supporting minority-owned businesses makes a larger impact than people realize. As a tip, your local chamber of commerce can be a really good resource to learn more. Be more intentional with spending habits and what role you can play as a general consumer.
7. Support by Corporations
There is an even bigger opportunity for the corporate community to support these businesses. This requires our corporations to be much more innovative in terms of developing strategies to help increase the number of contracts with minority-owned firms. Many procurement leaders are already doing this work quite well. The separation between those who are doing well and those who are going through the motions correlates directly with intentionality and creativity. They don’t just let simple inconsequential details stop them from allowing a minority business owner to be in consideration.
Those corporations and businesses are on the pavement, searching for and connecting with under-represented populations. Corporations need to be intentional, diligent and do the work necessary to create diverse supplier pools. If employers and businesses in the market are being thoughtful, then a diverse applicant pool from which you can contract will develop. With this comes new services and innovation that will continue to attract talent and corporations to the marketplace.
The Ripple Effect
In the end, there is a ripple effect from the community, consumers and corporations contributing to economic inclusion. When you think about the prosperity of a community, remember the concept of “rising tides lifting all boats.” By serving and supporting those underserved and minority-owned businesses and economic inclusion, we increase the talent and output of the global business community.