Robert Sausedo of Community Build speaks during the workshop for small businesses. (Courtesy photo)

After dropping 30% during the pandemic, Black businesses are making a comeback. A recent study from the University of California, Santa Cruz cited the number of Black small-business owners rose 28% higher in the third quarter of 2021 in comparison to pre-pandemic times.

To capitalize on this momentum, a cohort of local organizations organized a workshop series to show small business how to retain, maintain and grow into multi-million dollar entities through contracting.

“Staying in the Black” is a small business workshop series presented by City National Bank, Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation, Community Build, Inc. and Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce. The first workshop was held at VSEDC on June 17.

“Our objective was to help some of our small local businesses graduate to the next level by providing them with vital resources,” City National Bank Vice President of Community Development Brian Grant said. “Taking advantage of contract opportunities that are coming down the pipeline is how we’re going to build millionaires in our community.”

The organizers were experts in the field of nonprofit management, commercial bank lending, Small Business Administration (SBA) lending, commercial development financial institution (CDFI) lending, contract opportunities, small business minority certification and intellectual property.

Community Build, Inc. President Robert Sausedo shared insight on how in the span of 18 months, he doubled the growth of the South Los Angeles legacy nonprofit during the pandemic by monitoring business trends.

“Almost every day in the Wall Street Journal, there is a multi-million dollar transaction. I have my staff track who’s getting bought by whom, what industry and if are there any regulatory requirements for more them to reinvest in community,” Sausedo said.   “That’s who we’re going to target. Simple trend.  Those are the kinds of things you need to be looking at.”

City National Bank is one of the top three SBA lenders in the country and number one in California.  In his 30 year career in banking, Grant was often provided services to black doctors and other high net worth individuals and businesses.  He said some of them wanted to expand their business but their financial statements did not show enough profit to qualify for a loan.

“People don’t want to show a profit and pay taxes, but if you don’t show a profit, how are you going to grow your business?” said Grant. “A person with that mentality is destine to stay at a certain level.  At the end of the day, the goal is to be profitable.”

City National Bank SBA Loan Specialist Mark Morales reviewed the three questions every business owner must sufficiently answer in order to qualify for a loan – How much money do you need; what will you use the money for and most importantly, how can you demonstrate that you can pay the money back including interest.  The answer to these questions will determine the type of loan that best fits a business owners requirements.

“SBA loans are funded by your tax dollars and you should take advantage of that,” Morales said.  “It’s all about leveraging your resources to take you to the next level.”

Kimberly Rolfe, Director at the Southern California Virtual Business Center has been teaching business owners about personal finance and contracting for over fifteen years. Rolfe said every business is only one contract away from becoming a million dollar enterprise.

“There is a trillion dollars in corporate and government contracts.  If you are not at that table, you are missing out on something,” said Rolfe.  “There is so much money out there.  There’s opportunities for everything, anything you can think of.”

Rolfe said most of the time small businesses will work with a corporation’s supplier diversity professional to access the appropriate contract.  A website and capability statement should show demonstrate how a business’ product and services are the solution to need of the prospective client.

Simply Beautiful Floral Design owner Barbara Johnson was invigorated by all the information provided in the workshop.

“I came away with a business strategy on how to effectively procure the money that is out there to become the next millionaire,” Johnson said.  “I already have in mind that I want to make $50 million.  Nothing less.  Maybe I’m limiting myself.  Maybe I should make it $100 million.  It’s possible.”

For information on future Staying in the Black workshops, visit