Black entrepreneurs historically have struggled to attract backers, receiving only 1% of cash doled out by venture capitalists as recently as 2020.
The Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce is working to change that. At a leadership summit Wednesday for Black-owned businesses and nonprofits, leaders from a variety of business backgrounds spoke to more than 100 attendees about how they can create a better future for generations to come.
“We have to be careful and make sure that we service everybody, but I will be doing a disservice if I didn’t put special emphasis on African Americans and brown business owners,” said Ahmad Goree, lead economic development specialist and public information officer for the US Small Business Administration’s Dallas-Fort Worth district. He took part in a panel discussion about raising capital.
Black founders’ compound annual growth rate is minus 7%, compared with 18% for non-Black founders, according to information technology firm Accenture’s 2020 analysis of data compiled by startup tracking site Crunchbase. Goree and his fellow panelists from the day stressed that resources are available to address the disparity.
LaShaunda Pickett-René, vice president and managing director for TruFund Financial Services in Texas, told business owners to be purposeful about their need for capital. Her company provides money to community development financial institutions for loans to small businesses and nonprofits. Different from a typical bank, community development financial institutions aren’t regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Pickett-René said the company asks for the same information as banks but looks at the package differently.
“We’re looking at who you are as a business owner, your experience, your relationship and position in the community,” Pickett-René said, “… and how you’re creating jobs and putting economic impact back into your community .”
Among those listening was Tramonica Brown, founder and executive director of Not My Son, a nonprofit that began in 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Its mission is social activism, community outreach and civic engagement.
“We have a serious problem here,” Brown said. “It’s a serious notation with business owners, with educators, with nonprofits. (We need to) start stepping in and saying, ‘How can we be more of assistance?’”
Brown said she was contacted by Harrison Blair, president of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, to make sure her nonprofit was able to get resources from the day’s events. She was excited to meet with other Black colleagues and hear stories from other entrepreneurs in Dallas.
Entrepreneurs were surprised by a speech from Opal Lee, the Fort Worth woman known as the grandmother of the Juneteenth holiday. Lee opened her conversation by greeting all the “young people” in the crowd because “if you aren’t 95, you’re young.” She urged business owners to vote and be active in their state.
“It’s our responsibility,” Lee said. “Young people, know that I love you. Let’s get something done as soon as possible.”
Another conversation at the event —“Giving Back, Giving Black” — centered around philanthropy.
Jarren Small, co-founder and CEO of Legends Do Live, a nonprofit that focuses on funding disadvantaged youth, said nonprofit leaders need to be engaged with community partners.
“I look at being very strategic about where I want to go and who I want to talk to,” Small said.
Tiara Tucker, founder and CEO of Tiara PR Network, told entrepreneurs to continue to listen and keep learning.
“I’m happy that I have a nonprofit, but it expanded my mindset to think bigger,” Tucker said. “Think bigger.”
Nonprofits require a reframing of their purpose, said Byron Sanders, president and CEO of Big Thought, which works on youth programming in the education sector. Sanders said it’s important to remember that a nonprofit is not a charity.
“I work in an impact organization seeking to make systems change,” Sanders said.
The summit also included discussions of social influencing, restaurants, health and leadership. Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, was its keynote speaker.
Tucker wrapped up one of the final conversations by praising Lee.
“Let’s think about who went before us,” she told attendees. “Let’s think about who’s behind us, and let’s make a difference. We don’t have to wait on anybody. We can create the change that we want to see.”