City’s BE NYC initiative aims to increase amount of Black-owned businesses with resources and investment

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New York City launched a new initiative, entitled BE NYC, to further invest in Black entrepreneurs in all five boroughs — following an announcement that it has surpassed 10,000 certified Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) in August.

The BE NYC program aims to increase the number of Black-owned businesses in the city with a focus on growing businesses in high-growth industries.

“Black entrepreneurs built New York City,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This historic public-private partnership will ensure we can come together to support them, and give them the recognition they have deserved for so long.”

While the Black community makes up 22 percent (or 1.9 million) of New York City’s population, only 2 percent of city businesses are owned by Black entrepreneurs, according to the Department of Small Business Services (SBS). BE NYC is an addition to the city’s commitment to close the racial wealth gap and support Black-owned businesses.

“Addressing the wealth gap cannot be accomplished without addressing the longstanding inequities in Black communities, particularly the lack of access to financial services that have barred Black entrepreneurs from competing on a level playing field,” Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks said. “I applaud the mayor and SBS for utilizing public-private partnerships to drive BE NYC’s mission in fostering a Black business community that has more access to the resources required to thrive.”

SBS released the Advancing Black Entrepreneurship in NYC report and will be using its partnerships to launch four new programs within BE NYC. The four new programs are Providing Access to World-Class Business Experts, Access to Capital and Business Education, Closing the Digital Divide and Launching a BE NYC Accelerator.

“Black entrepreneurs are an essential part of the fabric of New York City, and equity and opportunity are at the core of the work we do at SBS. These values lay the foundation for BE NYC,” said SBS Commissioner Jonnel Doris. “Working together with business, academic, government and community leaders, we are striving to create a fairer and more equitable city where Black-owned businesses can grow and thrive.”

SBS’ report was informed by more than 1,500 current and aspiring Black entrepreneurs, business leaders, community leaders and advocates. It highlights the challenges Black entrepreneurs face while starting and growing their businesses. Some of those challenges include a lack of access to mentors and advisers; lack of access to capital, preparation and background on how to run a business; as well as difficulty finding customers, affordable workspace and networking.

The four programs of BE NYC will address those areas by providing equitable access to financing, strengthening connections within NYC’s Black entrepreneurial community, scaling Black businesses for long-term success and meeting the challenges of the economy of tomorrow.

Edward C. Funches, president of Inclusion Marketing & Advertisement Group Inc., said he’s experienced first-hand the challenges of owning a business as a Black, disabled man who’s served time in prison.

“I’m honored to be a member of BE NYC,” Funches told QNS. “This is a true blessing. This is history for us.”

Funches’ business focuses on finding employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and other disadvantages, like people who have served time in prison. He’s been able to secure contracts with the Department of Transportation during the time of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 changed the face of the world. Jobs that people didn’t want to do, we were hired to do them, like sanitizing vehicles,” Funches said. “We’re like firefighters: We don’t have a problem going into the fire. We purchased hazmat suits, cleaning supplies, PPE … Fortunately, none of us have gotten infected.”

Funches believes that the most important aspect of any program that seeks to help Black entrepreneurs is capital.

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is partnering with BE NYC in order to facilitate access to affordable financing and business education.

SBS is launching the BE NYC Accelerator to help cultivate the businesses in high-growth sectors with an initial $3 million investment of capital and operating funds from City Council, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and The Young Men’s Initiative.

Queens City Council member Adrienne Adams, co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian (BLA) Caucus, said it’s important to create more opportunities for Black business owners.

“Black-owned businesses are part of the fabric of this city and creating opportunities for our Black entrepreneurs to thrive is essential,” said Adams. “It is important that we acknowledge the challenges that Black-owned businesses face and I applaud New York City’s new partnerships under the BE NYC Initiative as they are so important to creating a level playing field for Black entrepreneurs.”

Fellow BLA Co-Chair Councilman I. Daneek Miller said he’s “incredibly excited” about the resources BE NYC will provide the many Black business owners in Queens.

“We are incredibly excited about the BE NYC program and the resources that it will provide Black entrepreneurs,” said Miller. “Fostering intergenerational wealth and investing in our community is so crucially important and I look forward to working with NYC SBS to spread the word about these new initiatives. There is an abundance of incredible Black owned businesses right here in southeast Queens that would greatly benefit from these services and deserve to be highlighted.”

Councilman and candidate for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said decades of racial disadvantages and lack of resources stymies Black entrepreneurship.

“Only 3 percent of Black-owned businesses have employees. This is less than any other ethnic group,” Richards said. “This shows that our Black businesses haven’t received the investments and support needed to help them achieve business success. We have to make sure that we distribute loans, lines of credit, programs and services equitably for our Black business-owners the succeed and thrive. Especially in Queens where we cater to the most diverse population in the city.”

For more information about the program, visit SBS’s BE NYC website.