Black-owned businesses are an essential part of the fabric of New York City, and entrepreneurship has provided a pathway to wealth generation for Black families for centuries. Yet, Black entrepreneurs face enormous barriers and are vastly underrepresented among New York City's business owners. While the Black community currently makes up 22% of New York City's population (1.9 million), just 2% of NYC businesses are owned by Black entrepreneurs. There is tremendous potential for more Black-owned businesses to start and grow.
The forces that drive this disparity are essential to understand as the City of New York works to build a stronger and fairer city by creating opportunity for all, safeguarding the American dream, and addressing the racial wealth gap. That's why in September 2019 – in partnership with community members, organizations, advocates, and leaders – we launched Black Entrepreneurs NYC (BE NYC) — a groundbreaking model for a major American city to help create equity of opportunity by advancing Black entrepreneurship.
To define the direction of the initiative, we combined insights from historical research, scholarly articles, public data and, most importantly, the voices of more than 1,500 Black entrepreneurs, business leaders, community leaders, and advocates from every borough and across industries.
They told us about their motivations for starting a business, challenges, needs, and how the City can help. Although COVID-19 has significantly changed the economic landscape, the top needs we heard from Black entrepreneurs remain the same: access to capital, lack of business background and reliable resources, finding customers, affordable workspace, and networking.
The report below highlights the challenges Black entrepreneurs face when starting and growing their businesses and offers solutions through public-private partnerships. The recommendations, created in conjunction with the public, private, philanthropic, and non-profit sectors will help achieve the following goals:
Through the four pathways outlined above, BE NYC aims to increase the number of Black-owned businesses in New York City, with a focus on growing businesses in high-growth industries. We will kick this off with the following programs (select a topic, or press the enter key on a topic, to learn more):
Providing Access to World-Class Business Experts
Less than 40% of Black entrepreneurs reported that they had access to mentors and advisors. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately impact the health and economic welfare of Black communities across the city, time with advisors has become even more scarce—and even more important. To address this need, the City has partnered with Ernst & Young (EY) to connect Black entrepreneurs with world-class resources and guidance. In this new, three-part program, EY has committed to:
Access to Capital and Business Education
The top challenges identified by Black entrepreneurs were access to capital (40%), lack of preparation and background on how to run a business (15%) and a lack of reliable resources to help (13%). Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses has a decade-long track record of addressing these gaps and providing underserved small businesses with the resources to grow. Goldman Sachs is a crucial partner to BE NYC in delivering the opportunities that Black entrepreneurs need.
Closing the Digital Divide
More than 70% of Black business owners indicated that they want assistance reaching more customers and growing their sales. In this current moment, where virtual storefronts and e-commerce are more important than ever, Mastercard will join New York City in its efforts, helping to ensure that Black entrepreneurs survive and thrive in a post-COVID economy by providing the resources they need and deserve to launch and maintain their business, as well as expand and improve their online presence. This includes:
Launching a BE NYC Accelerator
Through an initial $3 million investment of capital and operating funds from the City Council, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and SBS will launch a BE NYC accelerator to help cultivate businesses for the economy of tomorrow. This effort, funded by the Young Men's Initiative, will include meeting space and technical assistance focusing on launching and growing local Black-owned businesses. The Brooklyn Navy Yard will identify partners to build out the space, and curate an active community and product programming for participants.
On Wednesday, August 19, Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Jonnel Doris, McKissack & McKissack President & CEO Cheryl McKissack Daniel, MoCaFi Founder & CEO Wole Coaxum, Co-founder and CEO of TresseNoire/Black Women Talk Tech CEO Regina Gywnn, and the BE NYC Cabinet held a virtual roundtable to discuss ways to advance Black entrepreneurship together in New York City. Watch the recording below: