Programs and Services offered to African Americans
The number of black American entrepreneurs is steadily increasing in America, but it still only accounts for a small percentage of small business owners. African Americans can make a difference in their community and there are many local, federal and private resources available to minority-run businesses.
The most obvious problems that small business face surround finances; the money to get off the ground and become successful can be daunting. There are loans and grants specifically geared towards African Americans, and it is important that every financial avenue is explored and utilized.
- Grants: There are hundreds of grants available for minorities starting businesses; the trick is to hunt them down and not fall victim to scams. Websites that ask for your money or personal details in exchange for grant information should not be trusted. Instead, you should seek grant information with your local government, which often reserve specific grants for minorities. State grants generally require at least a 51% ownership of the company; they also may require that your company be in existence for more than one year. www.Grants.gov and www.mdba.gov are reliable resources where you can research, register and apply for grants offered through local and federal government. The Small Business Association also provides a short survey (where you can indicate your minority status) and gives applicable government and private grants specific to your needs.
- Grant Writing: Every grant has specific and unique requirements; grant proposals should be written individually for each application. There are several free online sources that specifically assist minorities with grant proposals, inquiry letters and general advice for getting attention from the grant board.
- Loans: In order to ensure the best interest rate and loan agreement, it is in your best interest to seek out a lender that deals with minority and/or African American-specific lending programs. The Minority Business Development Agency has local offices nationwide for minorities to come and get financial advice specific to their needs. By visiting the MBDA website, African Americans can find an office near them and start talking about their financial options immediately. Major banks, such as Wells Fargo, also provide an African American lending program that is reliable and will work with your start-up business. No matter where you apply for your small business loan, you should have a well-prepared business plan available and be ready to answer questions regarding your business.
African American Business Advice
Sometimes all you need to get started is a point in the right direction. For African American entrepreneurs and small business owners, there are several online organizations that are waiting to answer questions and mentor businesses. The Network Journal and Black Enterprise are online journals that dedicate entire sections to mentoring new businesses. Offering financial, employee, location, technology advice and more, these
journals are written by African Americans for African Americans. Free newsletters and even cash prizes are available to African American entrepreneurs on these websites with the option to follow on Twitter and Facebook. Valuable tools and resources are available daily on these websites. The National Black Business Trade Association is also an excellent way to get connected with other black entrepreneurs locally and nationwide. The association allows businesses to give product suggestions, advice on business strategies and gives your business that extra sense of quality.
Although not specific to African Americans, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is an excellent mentoring website that provides free mentoring online or in person by successful business executives to those just starting out. Webinars, local chapters and online articles are available to anyone that wants to join for free. These and other online resources should not be overlooked when trying to find tips and advice for starting your business. Take advantage of other’s experience and don’t repeat their mistakes; these websites can save a lot of time and save you from amateur mistakes.