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Startup resources for women and people of color

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.

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Get certified with organizations

Several organizations offer programs to certify your business as a people of color- or women-owned business. Most of these organizations have firm qualification rules, such as the following:

  • 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:

  • Profit and loss statements
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • Proof of liability insurance

Below are some of the most popular professional organizations.

National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)

The National Minority Supplier Development Council, NMSDC, has built a network that creates new business opportunities for business owners of color. The organization's extensive network of members and corporate partners meet face to face and online.

Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)

As one of the largest women-owned business networks, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, WBENC, furthers business opportunities for women entrepreneurs. The organization offers scholarships, business fairs, and other benefits for members and their teams.

SBA programs

The Small Business Association, SBA, supports businesses of all types and sizes, with 2 programs specific to women and/or people of color:

  1. Women-Owned Small Businesses, WOSB, provides informational resources, help with small business loans for women, and support for government contracts.

  2. The 8(a) Business Development Program offers the same services as the WOSB program, but focuses on people of color-owned businesses.

Gain funding for your business

In addition to business support and networking, there are also several funding opportunities built to support women and people of color.

Loans

Several banks have specific programs for such enterprises. Financial institutions sometimes earmark funds specifically for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color.

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.

Venture capital

Impressing a venture capitalist can prove challenging, but not impossible. Diverse Strategies and Active Capital both focus on people of color-owned businesses, while Golden Seeds offers venture capitalist funding for women-owned business. 

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.

Grants

The US government does not offer grants for people of color- or women-owned businesses, but you can find grant money from private organizations. While you have to pay back a loan based on the terms you negotiate with the lender, you don't need to repay grant funding.

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.

Receive advice and network with other entrepreneurs

Networking groups and mentorship programs allow entrepreneurs to benefit from professional expertise and guidance. You can join organizations that offer social activities and networking events.

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.

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