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Just as four in ten Black-owned businesses closed their doors permanently during the 15-month pandemic shutdown, there was a marked increase in the number of Blacks opening new businesses.  According to a recent report on early stage entrepreneurship by the Kauffman Foundation, during the pandemic, there were more new Black-owned businesses proportionate to the total population than at any time in the past 25 years.

Through its Business Evolution Program (BEP), the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce’s (GLAAACC) is creating a blueprint for the next generation of Black business owners.

“As we, hopefully, turn the corner on the pandemic shutdown, it’s time to get back to business,” said GLAAACC Chairman Gene Hale.  “The Business Evolution Program is GLAAACC’s way of doing our part to ensure entrepreneurs have what they need to sustain their businesses and be successful going forward.”

BEP was developed in 2005 by GLAAACC’s Business & Economic Development Committee as a means to equip entrepreneurs with the tools needed for long term viability.  For 15 years, GLAAACC’s BEP Committee selected one promising business owner to mentor for 12 months.  When the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March 2020, GLAAACC made the decision to go virtual and expand the mentorship program from a single mentee to a cohort of 13 small business owners.

The rigorous nine-month curriculum includes modules on contracting, procurement, supplier diversity, lending and professional business services, technical assistance, technology and access to capital. Participants also come away with an understanding of the role leadership plays in operating a business.

GLAAACC is currently accepting applications for the 2021/ 2022 BEP cohort.  There is no application fee and corporate sponsors enable GLAAACC to offer the program at no cost to participants.  Entrepreneurs interested in applying must be 51% minority-owned or be economically disadvantaged; they must have a business license and profitability for at least 3 years; annual revenue must be $100,000 or higher for the 2019 tax year; GLAAACC membership is required at the start of the program.

Once accepted into program, there will be a nine-month commitment with meetings every 2nd Wednesday of the month, which will include homework. Each month a different subject matter expert will cover a core business topic such as leadership, creating a capability statement, how to get access to capital, technology tools for business management and much more.

Gilbert Buchanan, owner and creator of Small Biz Pro, a back office management platform, will coach and mentor participants throughout the program to ensure they are bank, business and contract-ready. Buchanan is a principal at Buchanan & Associated and a supplier diversity and development business coach & facilitator.  He has over 20 years of industry experience working within public works contracting, construction, contract compliance, labor compliance, transportation and manufacturing.

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BEP mentees will also have complimentary access to professional public relations and marketing services to develop a targeted messaging strategy.  Discounts on website development or upgrades will also be available.

For the 2021/2022 BEP cohort, the program will include a new group pitch competition sponsored by T-Mobile. Mentees will be divided in groups and work together to develop a strategic pitch for a product or service.  The winning team will receive a $5,000 grand prize.

In addition to T-Mobile, BEP sponsors include Southern California Edison, Honda, Chase and Union Bank.

For more information on GLAAACC’s 2021/2022 Business Evolution Program, call (323) 292-1297 or visit https://www.glaaacc.org/programs/business-evolution-program