In today’s current business climate, corporate and government support for minority-owned businesses is on the rise. In fact, businesses that are at least 51% owned and operated by one or more minority individuals (a person who is at least 25% African American, Asian, Hispanic or Native American) can get certified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), opening up exclusive opportunities for public and private work programs, grants and federal contracts.
Such certification programs can be helpful, but they’re just one of many ways for minority entrepreneurs to expand their network of resources to connect, network and grow.
As a business coach and entrepreneur who has worked closely with other minority business owners, Dana James Mwangi of Cheers Creative sees firsthand the frustrations and pain points of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs across multiple industries, especially solopreneurs.
“With minority businesses, a lot of us start out as a party of one, so we are already strapped for time [and] our energy is already low,” said James Mwangi. “We more than likely [came] into the business being the bookkeeper, the production manager, the operations person, the creative person and the entrepreneur. A lot of us work in silos … [and] most of the time we are self-funded and we are doing the best we can with what we have.”
To get out of these silos and open the door to more potential business opportunities, minority entrepreneurs can prioritize promoting themselves and establishing more connections within their community. Here’s how minority-owned businesses can expand their reach and gain more exposure for themselves.
[Read more: How To Get Certified As A Minority-Owned Business]
Ask customers to write online reviews
Online reviews can go a long way in helping establish a company’s brand and credibility. Positive online reviews help place your business at the top of search engine results so you are more likely to be visible to those who are looking for your services. When a potential customer sees a large number of positive reviews about your product or services, they’re more likely to use that service.
The way a company responds to negative reviews shows consumers a company’s values, too. After any positive experience with the customer, ask them to write an online review and make sure to keep up with replies to all reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp and Facebook.
Share your unique experiences as a minority entrepreneur
Krystal Hardy Allen, founder of K. Allen Consulting, encourages business owners to consider the way their identities have shaped their entrepreneurial experiences.
“For instance, I am a woman and I am Black, and I’m also a first-generation college graduate, so all of those different aspects of my identity also come into play in the way that I experienced being an entrepreneur,” Allen told CO—.
If you want to win in business, you need confidence.
Dana James Mwangi, Cheers Creative
It’s important to share these perspectives, especially within the minority entrepreneur community, to foster deeper connections and understanding. At a time when companies struggle to deliver authentic, inclusive messaging, minority entrepreneurs can stand out by crafting messages that speak to members of their communities.
This desire for greater inclusivity drove Darren Martin Jr. and Ahmad Barber to launch Bold Culture, a communications firm that sits at “the intersection of developing inclusive workplaces and ensuring inclusive marketing messages are authentically delivered.” After working for companies with culturally informed messaging and a lack of focus on diverse experiences, the Bold Culture founders now work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the corporate world.
“We knew there was a need, and that there was a community of individuals doing the work to reshape diversity, inclusion and equity in companies—so we made sure we kept moving forward,” said Barber.
[Read more: 10 Resources for Minority-Owned Businesses]
Leverage digital tools to free up time for networking and collaboration
As James Mwangi noted, solo minority business owners are often crunched on time and resources. That’s why she recommends building your skills and expertise with digital tools to streamline your systems and give you time back in your day.
“Digital tools help you to automate a lot of things in your business and organize them,” she said. “They help you to free up your time so you can create connections with other Black [and minority] business owners and collaborate.”
Join a minority-focused Chamber of Commerce
Joining your local Chamber of Commerce is a great way to connect with other business owners in the area and create mentorships and partnerships. Minority entrepreneurs can go one step further by joining Chambers that are specific to their own community.
National Chambers of Commerce exist for Black-owned businesses, Hispanic- and Latinx-owned businesses, Asian American-owned businesses and more. These organizations place a specific focus on uplifting the voices and successes of their members, which is why joining one (in addition to a local, regional or national Chamber) is a great way for minority business owners to flourish in their industry and community.
Keep believing in yourself and your business
“If you want to win in business, you need confidence,” said James Mwangi. This is not always an easy thing to achieve in a world where minority-owned businesses get less funding and resources than non-minority businesses. For instance, entrepreneur Marc Washington met with roughly 40 VC firms when seeking capital for his startup, Muniq, and didn’t feel the process was any easier for him as a Black founder serving multicultural communities, despite “all of the public statements of aspirations of doing more to support Black founders.”
“You have to absolutely do your work and believe in yourself,” Washington said in another CO— interview, where he advised minority entrepreneurs to mentally prepare for rejection. “The world needs more of what we’re doing, and frankly it needs … to innovate and help those who need it the most.”
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Published August 23, 2021