The first cohort of business owners who participated in FBE’s Business Equity Initiative experienced … [+]
Courtesy of the Foundation for Business Equity
August marks National Black Business Month, a time when companies are doubling down on their efforts to support Black-owned businesses. But for the Foundation for Business Equity, this has been a priority since 2017. The organization’s goal is to close the racial wealth gap by breaking down the structural barriers, including lack of access to business resources, keeping Black and Latinx businesses from growing.
FBE’s Business Equity Initiative pairs strategic advisors and business management executives with business owners to provide scaling advice and facilitate growth plans. The first cohort of business owners who participated in this program experienced an average of $14 million in revenue growth. FBE also responded to the Covid-19 crisis with a Business Equity COVID-19 Emergency Fund to provide flexible loans to Massachusetts-based Black and Latinx businesses with revenues of at least $250,000.
“FBE identified the needs we had in our business,” says Tartt’s Daycare CEO Ken Reed, a participant in the BEI initiative. “We had serious difficulty securing bank loans but in working with the Foundation for Business Equity we were able to work with lenders that used other credit markers like job creation and our ties to the community, and that was really a game changer for us and allowed us to expand.”
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Entrepreneur Glynn Lloyd has been applying the business lessons and struggles he encountered from … [+]
Courtesy of Foundation for Business Equity
At the head of this is Glynn Lloyd, an entrepreneur of color who has been FBE’s executive director since its inception. For(bes) The Culture, Forbes’ recently launched hub for Black and brown professionals, spoke with Lloyd about his journey from entrepreneur to FBE executive director and the foundation’s efforts to push the needle.
For(bes) The Culture: You have been very dedicated to urban growth and development. Tell us what brought you here.
Glynn Lloyd: I’ve been focused on transformative urban economic development for more than 25 years, with a focus on small business. My interest in entrepreneurship began early when I was growing up in Massachusetts and started a landscaping business at a young age. After college, I joined the first Teach for America cohort and taught in Louisiana. However, I decided I wanted to strengthen the communities where we live, and returned to Boston to focus on strengthening my community from within.
When I was 26 years old, I founded City Fresh Foods, which has grown to be a nationally recognized food service business. Over 20 years, it has grown on average 15% annually. I also launched the Urban Farming Institute, a community-led nonprofit supporting the development of the urban farming industry in Massachusetts and helped to found the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, a coalition of Black businesses, community, religious and labor leaders working together to improve economic indicators in the Black community.
For(bes) The Culture: How did you become involved with the Foundation for Business Equity?
Lloyd: Five years ago, I transitioned from City Fresh Foods to run a family investment fund supporting social entrepreneurs. It was there I started reimagining how to best support Black and Latino entrepreneurs in reaching their full growth potential. I had a front row seat around financing and deal-making for small businesses, but I knew high-quality advice and additional technical support—expertise in different business disciplines from operations to human resources to marketing—was equally, if not more, important.
Simultaneously, a group of local businesses and community partners were coming together to help address the widening income and wealth gap in greater Boston by helping to scale small business, and they were seeking leadership for this venture.
For(bes) The Culture: Did you experience financial or business inequity yourself?
Lloyd: An incident happened recently when City Fresh, an established, steady, locally owned minority enterprise, was seeking growth capital. The offer was triple the cost of capital that national and international competitors pay for the cost of their credit.
For(bes) The Culture: So they were extending City Fresh credit at a much higher rate?
For(bes) the Culture: How does the Foundation for Business Equity function to support businesses like City Fresh?
Lloyd: Being an entrepreneur is hard enough. For business owners of color, not having the same access to capital, expert business advice and contracts and customers to significantly scale up their businesses makes it harder for them to achieve their full potential. We focus on networking, marketing and credit for business owners of color and the structural issues that hinder their growth, as a means to help close the wealth gap.
For(bes) The Culture: How do you see the pandemic affecting the wealth gap?
Lloyd: If you came into the pandemic more fragile from a financial health situation, which is unfortunately the case for too many business owners of color due to the systemic inequities that have perpetuated wealth inequality, the impact of the pandemic will be exacerbated and felt more deeply. This is why we immediately wanted to provide relief capital. We created the Business Equity COVID-19 Emergency Fund to provide flexible loans and crisis response support teams to Massachusetts-based Black and Latino businesses with revenues of at least $250,000. This model of immediate impact advice is now part of the services the Foundation for Business Equity provides. Before the pandemic, the focus of advice provided by our strategic advisors was about growth. We’ve shifted more toward survival and growth.
The advice is somewhat different, with a need to understand crisis management, how a business’ market is shifting and the need to quickly pivot and adjust.
For(bes) The Culture: There are several statements and initiatives that companies are putting out to address inequity. What should we be doing as a nation, as a society to combat it?
Lloyd: Statements are great and in the right direction, and they come from a new awareness of this country’s history and its current impact. What I hope for is that we will direct resources into structural changes that get at the root of solving this institutional inequity. This will take a strong will, especially from those who are the gatekeepers and decision makers for these resources.
For(bes) The Culture: What does the Foundation for Business Equity want to do in the future to continue to push the needle forward, and what should we be doing as individuals in these times?
Lloyd: Right now there is a huge demand for change for small business credit and capital and a need for large investment opportunities in these areas, as well as good advice. As individuals and businesses, we all need to dig in and really commit to the work that needs to be done for real change. This is not about feel-good solutions and trendy statements, but making decisions that bring about lasting change.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.