According to a 2021 Brookings report, roughly 96% of Black-owned businesses are sole proprietorships (unincorporated businesses owned and operated by one individual) compared to 80% of non-Black –owned businesses. What Black business need most is capital investment which leads to an increase in scale and capacity.
For over 15 years, the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce‘s (GLAACC) Business Evolution Program (BEP) has partnered with major corporations to provide entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to increase scale and achieve economic growth.
“Over the past two years, the response to BEP going virtual has been phenomenal,” said GLAACC Chairman Gene Hale. “With the support of our corporate sponsors, BEP has grown exponentially. We’ve been able to use this virtual platform to help entrepreneurs recalibrate the way they do business and gain a competitive advantage to take them to the next level.”
Support from title sponsor T-Mobile and presenting sponsor Wells Fargo have made it possible for BEP, valued at $5,000 per business, to grow and be provided to participants at no cost.
“GLAACC’S Business Evolution Program reflects T-Mobile’s Un-carrier spirit,” Brenda Quintana-Saragosa, T-Mobile’s Public Affairs representative said. “We have a strong plan for Diversity, Equity and inclusion. Providing businesses with the latest information and technology is a large part of that plan.”
In 2021 T-Mobile launched Magenta’s Edge, an online program to provide access to free educational resources for up-an-coming business. Supporting BEP is a part of T-Mobile’s broader Equity in Action plan, which works to advance diversity, equity and inclusion across all aspects of its business and the community it serves.
BEP’s curriculum aligns with Wells Fargo’s commitment to help small businesses during the pandemic and beyond.
“Fostering an inclusive economic recovery and helping small businesses persevere in the wake of Covid19 is a priority for us,” said Jack Olree, vice president, Community Relations Senior Consultant. “As a company, we have a commitment to make the communities where we operate stronger, and to do it at a very local level.”
Through their $420 million Open for Business Fund, Wells Fargo focuses on racially and ethnically diverse small businesses across the U.S., which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The fund was created from the gross processing fees that Wells Fargo made from administering Paycheck Protection Program loans in 2020. In February, the bank announced a $20 million donation specifically to strengthen small businesses in Los Angeles.
Other BEP sponsors include Southern California Edison, Chase, Union Bank and Southern California Gas. Over the past decade, GLAACC’s BEP has evolved into a renowned boot camp for serious entrepreneurs.
Prior to the pandemic, BEP mentored one small business each year. Business owners received private business coaching, access to capital, financing, procurement and contract opportunities, as well as marketing, advertising and social media training. BEP graduates experienced exponential growth as a result of the focused intensive training.
In response to the pandemic, BEP went virtual in 2020 and expanded the program to 13 small business owners. The success and positive response from small business owners in 2020, led BEP to expand once again in 2021, this time to a cohort of 35.
The cohort is derived from a variety of industries: film production, trucking, retail, personal care, real estate management, marketing, janitorial, technology, psychology, environmental, housing assistance and construction. Their time in business also varies greatly: from a first year startup to a family-owned operation that’s been in business for 71 years.
BEP Chairperson and Director for Supply Chain and Diverse Business Enterprises for Southern California Gas Lily Otieno said the pandemic caused corporations to rethink their business model.
“The pandemic confirmed the interdependent nature of commerce, emphasizing the need for consumers to survive.” Otieno said. “We are grateful for our sponsors because they know that small businesses are the consumers that keep this economy moving forward.”
For more information on GLAAACC’s Business Evolution Program, visit glaaacc.org.