Women and people of color who want to start their own businesses can take advantage of several organizations offering business resources, including small business loans and grants. These resources can help professionals gain access to funding and mentorship opportunities.
Ownership—A majority, usually 51%, of the business's owners must be people of color and/or women.
Participation—At least 1 woman and/or person of color is an owner or equity holder and must participate in the business's daily operations.
Citizenship—Some organizations also require the owners to have US citizenship.
When you become certified as a woman- and/or people of color-owned business, you typically receive access to more mentorship and greater exposure to potential clients or customers.
The benefits vary by organization. For example, the National Women Business Owners Corp, NWBOC, furnishes its members with a procurement list of purchasing contracts.
Certification requirements and procedures vary from one organization to another. For example, you might have to offer documentation about your business, such as:
Below are some of the most popular professional organizations.
Women-Owned Small Businesses, WOSB, provides informational resources, help with small business loans for women, and support for government contracts.
The 8(a) Business Development Program offers the same services as the WOSB program, but focuses on people of color-owned businesses.
For example, your WBENC or NMSDC certification could help you get a small business loan from KeyBank. This financial institution also accepts other certifications, such as those administered by government authorities.
New York business attorney Thomas Fazio encourages entrepreneurs to seek venture capital funding. He cautions, however, that these investors expect a significant return on their money and will most likely want equity in addition to a return.
The Miller Lite Tap the Future Business Plan Competition, for example, awards entrepreneurs of color with more than $200,000 in grants with its business plan competition. You might also explore the Minority Business Development Agency, MBDA, which helps businesses find applicable grants.
Other sources for business grants include city and state economic development agencies. Explore these resources in your city to learn about your options.
National options include the following:
United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC)—Join this chamber of commerce for free educational training, free admission to matchmaking events, and corporate partner programs.
US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC)—The USPAACC offers meetings, networking socials, trade events, and other opportunities to find mentors and expand your network.
National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC)—Join this organization to benefit from annual conventions, trade missions, and procurement sessions.
US Women's Chamber of Commerce (USWCC)—This organization offers regular meetings, networking events, peer counseling opportunities, and an advocacy program.
You can also join professional organizations such as the Alliance of Business Leaders & Entrepreneurs, which unites African-American business leaders in Chicago and provides networking opportunities.
If you're looking for small business loans, grants, or networking/mentorship opportunities, you can focus on organizations and institutions that specialize in female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. Finding new funding opportunities and networking with your peers can help your business succeed.