By Tim Estiloz
Boston’s small business community is about to receive a significant helping hand towards greater success thanks to a new initiative conceived by the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation. Beginning this month, the new Business Equity Initiative (BEI) will work with minority small business owners in a variety of ways to minimize business and income inequalities among the city’s Latino and black communities.
The program is earmarked, in part, to address troubling statistics about income inequality in Boston. A 2016 Brookings report showed Boston currently has the highest levels of income inequality in the United States. Research from the Federal Reserve shows white families have 250 times more net worth than black families, and a similar ratio to that statistic for their Latino family counterparts.
“When you look at more recent history, the strength, size and members of minority businesses, particular black and Latino businesses in Eastern Massachusetts, were actually going the wrong way,” said Glynn Lloyd, Executive Director of the newly formed Business Equity Initiative. “We have less of these types of businesses than we did 20 years ago and that’s a problem.”
According to Lloyd, the Business Equity Initiative will address this issue by focusing on Latino and black enterprises and business through capacity building, supplier partnerships, access to growth capital and community transformative development. BEI is recruiting these enterprises positioned to grow in Eastern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire and Rhode Island to participate in the initiative. The goal is to provide more local, family-sustaining wage jobs, promote local ownership, and support strong business leaders of color.
“We want to reach those Latino business owners who are interested in growing their businesses, but haven’t been able to find the right initiative program that can really help them,” said Lloyd.
The initiative will work to aid Latino and black enterprises in several ways. BEI has recruited former CEOs who possess direct experience in growing small businesses to become trusted partners with the participating enterprises. The advisors will perform a full, organizational diagnostic assessment and co-create an effective strategic growth plan with the enterprises’ leadership teams and work with them to help execute and operationalize the strategy. While BEI will substantially subsidize this activity, participating enterprises will be asked to contribute a percentage of the value.
BEI will also utilize specialists to help bridge the gaps in infrastructure or operational capacity for the participating enterprises. The initiative will also offer financial support to subsidize the cost of these quality professional services to work on projects identified in the strategic growth plan.
Lloyd believes the expertise provided by the strategic advisors and specialists will also present additional benefits to the participating businesses.
“I’m excited because a lot of what people don’t often talk about is helping businesses to grow by expanding their networks such as who they know and who they went to school with,” said Lloyd. “What we are trying to do is bring those networks into the minority business community that we have less access to, and that helps grease the wheel a little bit for business success.”
The BEI plan recognizes small businesses, especially enterprises of color positioned for growth, access to capital that is patient and flexible is a challenge. BEI plans to provide funding to and partner with other organizations, foundations and individuals to help establish vehicles to make growth capital more accessible.
“We feel like we are filling the gaps of what’s been getting in the way of what’s allowing these businesses to truly grow,” said Lloyd. “We’re bringing on 15 companies this year and 15 next year and 45 the following year. I believe we are going to see some aggressive growth with these companies.”
BEI now has an open enrollment for minority enterprises who wish to participate. Interested parties can enroll and learn more about the Business Equity initiative on its website at: www.EasternBank.com/BEI