Business owners of all sizes and stages can benefit from mentorship to help them navigate the path of entrepreneurship. For Black, Hispanic, and Latino entrepreneurs, in particular, access to a mentor can make the difference between success and failure given the unique set of obstacles they often face when it comes to raising capital, acquiring resources, education, and even finding the right networking opportunities.
More than half of the 2 million new businesses started in the United States over the last decade are minority-owned. Yet, few have access to a mentor who can help them grow, both personally and professionally. It’s why Chase for Business created a mentorship program to offer minority small business owners free one-on-one coaching, banking and credit solutions, community resources, and year-round educational training. Since its 2020 launch, the initiative has created an opportunity for 1,500 entrepreneurs in more than 20 US cities while reaching over 30,000 diverse business owners through targeted education events, community workshops, and local networks. This effort is part of a firmwide, multi-year $30 billion commitment to help businesses, families, and local economies that have traditionally been shut out from opportunities to create and sustain generational wealth.
In celebration of Black Business Month, we caught up with Mikal Quarles, managing director and head of Chase for Business Racial Equity Strategies, to learn more about how Chase is supporting minority entrepreneurs and their communities.
How do racial inequities in the US affect minority small businesses and their potential to experience business growth?
Quarles: Structural barriers in the US have created racial inequities that were made even worse by COVID. In fact, Black business ownership declined more than 40% over the first three months of the pandemic — the largest drop of any ethnic group. While there are a number of factors that contribute to the decline, the history of structural barriers experienced in minority communities created a complex challenge. Oftentimes minority entrepreneurs may not have had the best relationship with a bank or may not have had a parent or close individual to seek guidance from related to entrepreneurship — the list goes on.
Based on what we’re seeing now, the pandemic and resulting economic pressures continue to underscore the value of a business mentor to help Black business owners navigate existing and new challenges, such as managing debt, raising capital, disruptions to the supply chain, record-high inflation, and the ongoing labor shortage. Our Chase Small Business Survey found that majority (70%) of small business owners are interested in mentorship; however, less than half (48%) feel they have someone they can look to for business advice.
How is Chase’s new program helping minority small business owners navigate these challenges?
Quarles: We are building the necessary infrastructure to help more minority-owned businesses grow and recover through new programs, products, and hiring. We started with a free small business mentorship program in 13 US cities with larger Black, Hispanic and Latin populations. Through this initiative, entrepreneurs work with certified Chase senior business consultants to access capital, education, and resources to grow and sustain.
Today, we have over 40 senior business consultants in 21 US cities whose job is to mentor and coach around 50 small business owners at any one time so they can better run their business. The vast majority of small businesses that enroll in the program identify business development, understanding working capital, operational support as their top needs to become more efficient. Our focus is to build trust, deepen relationships with these business owners, help them on a specific issue and then graduate them out in three to six months with the goal of getting them to become clients. And the great thing is they remain part of this expanded network even after graduation.
The goal of this program is to fill a knowledge and education gap for Black and Latino small business owners that will fuel sustainable success and lead to generational wealth in predominantly Black and Latino communities.
Our long-term success is intrinsically linked to the success of the businesses we’re supporting. In just two years, we have impacted the lives of 1,500 minority small business owners across 21 cities, helped to improve their operations, plan for financial growth, and access networking opportunities to help them grow their business. We have helped these entrepreneurs to not only dream big but ensure they have the resources to achieve bigger.
What are some specific examples of ways this program has helped Black-and Hispanic-owned small businesses?
Quarles: We have seen and heard from some truly remarkable business owners in the first two years of this program, and we have been amazed by the success that we can achieve together — regardless of size, stage, or industry.
We have helped businesses, like KINEMECHA based in Los Angeles, obtain its Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification, which provides them with greater access to private and government contract opportunities. We have supported businesses, like Pretty Brown Girl in Detroit and Multi Print USA in Houston, with back-office support and financial management. And we’ve helped businesses, like GoLogic Solutions in Chicago, diversify revenue streams and pivot during the pandemic.
In short, we have seen firsthand businesses go from $100,000 to $3 million in revenue in 18 months with goals of hitting $10 million in year three. The business owners will be the first to tell you their success would not be possible without the incredible support of the senior business consultants who continue to provide their guidance and expertise in a challenging economic landscape.
August is Black Business Month. How can people learn more about the ways Chase is supporting Black business owners?
Quarles: We have a number of programs and initiatives that directly engage the Black community, including the Chase mentorship program, Advancing Black Pathways, and the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund. In honor of Black Business Month, we have also curated a list of Black-owned businesses for consumers to consider shopping and supporting this month and beyond.
This post was created by Chase Business with Insider Studios.