Helpful Resources for Minority-Owned Businesses

By Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer

According to data from the Census Bureau, there were 7.5 million minority-owned businesses in the U.S. at the end of 2014. And trend lines indicate that number’s growing 5 to 7 percent per year.

“I would say that the state of minority business in the U.S. is becoming stronger every day,” says Trent Daniel, founder of The One World Doll Project, Inc., a minority business enterprise (MBE) in Houston. “I think with the innovations that the Internet has offered, coupled with increased access to information and education, an environment has been created where minority business owners can empower themselves with greater access to the tools and resources that make them competitive in major arenas.”

Use these resources to help you start or grow your own business.

MBE-Specific Programs

“Running a small business can almost take over your life, but one of the best strategies for business growth is for the owner to continue to gain skills and knowledge about how to identify, interpret and face business challenges,” says Edward Bryant, president and CEO of the St. Louis Minority Business Council. “Owners should consider avenues for their own professional development.”

There is a myriad of entrepreneurship and small business classes offered by organizations, including the Kauffman Foundation, Small Business Development Centers and even your local Chamber of Commerce. Here are three education programs designed specifically for MBEs:

  1. The Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development program provides MBEs with management and technical guidance, business coaching and online and in-person workshops. It also connects participants to government contracting opportunities.
  2. The National Minority Business Council, Inc., hosts an annual Executive Management Program that trains current and prospective minority business owners in the basics and advanced concepts of business development and growth.
  3. The Minority Chamber of Commerce’s Business and Entrepreneurial Skills Training (BEST) is designed for first-generation minority entrepreneurs who want to learn the basics of business management, to increase opportunities in the government and private sectors, and expand globally through import–export activities.

“The Minority Business Development Agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is a great resource for MBEs. They provide hands-on technical assistance that can help MBEs identify ways to scale their businesses,” Bryant adds

PRO TIP: Do a quick skills inventory to understand what you know — and what you need to work on. Then choose a class or program to fill the gaps. This is especially important if you’re new to business ownership.

Conferences & Events

Conferences and events are another effective way to grow your knowledge base and meet contacts that can grow your business. But these events are also crucial for building your professional network.

It’s important to attend conferences to “make connections and engage with Hispanic and African-, Asian- and Pacific-American business leaders and organizations to expand local and global business development,” says Doug Mayorga, president and founder of the Minority Chamber of Commerce based in Washington, D.C., and Miami. “It’s all about who you know.”

Here are three conferences worth attending:

  • Black Enterprise holds two major conferences each year for MBE owners: The Entrepreneurs Summit and Women of Power Summit are large national events that draw entrepreneurs, decision-makers and business leaders from around the country and from around the world to discuss issues, build skills and make connections.
  • The National Minority Supplier Development Council hosts an annual Business Opportunity Fair that includes panels, sessions and workshops on practices and trends to help MBEs connect with national and international supplier networks.

The Minority Business Development Agency hosts a calendar of national and regional events for MBEs. Don’t overlook industry-specific conferences that address the specific needs of and opportunities for MBEs within individual sectors.

And if you can’t afford conference attendance, look for low-cost or free networking opportunities in your community.

“As an African-American entrepreneur myself, I believe that networking is important for us to attain higher goals of fostering mentorship and viable upward relationships among minority business owners,” Daniel says. “Working together is the key for any community to grow stronger and to prepare itself for upcoming challenges or opportunities.”

PRO TIP: Ask your advisors and other MBE owners about the conferences and events they find most valuable and plan to attend those.

Keep Yourself Sustainable

Taking advantage of these training and networking opportunities is critical to creating a thriving MBE.

“The most important thing about keeping your business sustainable is for you to keep yourself sustainable,” Daniel counsels. “I always encourage entrepreneurs and business owners to read and to educate themselves on their craft and how to effectively grow that enterprise. It is fundamental for a business owner to understand that things are not always going to go right. In fact, more things will go wrong early on than will go right.”

Having a solid understanding of business fundamentals and a strong network of vendors and advisors helps you recover when things go wrong, and get more from those times things go right.

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