Kentucky City’s Incubator Seeks To Produce More Black-Owned Businesses – Westside Story Newspaper – Online

Two years ago, Dave Christopher knew something needed to change.

COVID-19 closed its hometown, Louisville, Kentucky, in the spring of 2020. Many businesses in its hometown did not survive, while others barely made it with the help of Wage Protection Program grants and loans.

But Christopher took a closer look and saw a deeper problem.

Statistics compiled by Louisville showed that the city’s black population was 23.4 per cent, but only 2.4 per cent of its businesses are owned by blacks. These figures roughly reflect national figures, with blacks representing 12.4 percent of the United States population in a country where only 2.4 percent of businesses are owned by blacks, according to a study by LendingTree.com.

Even more troubling: eight out of 10 black-owned businesses collapse within the first 18 months, according to CNBC.com.

A black Air Force veteran with 12 years of service and an entrepreneur since childhood, Christopher did not understand the statistics he read. It made no sense. And the more I looked at it, the more frustrated I became. And the more I worried, the more I thought: What can I do? Christopher told Zenger.

Gregory Johnson is Managing Director, US Equality and Economic Opportunity Initiative for the Rockefeller Foundation. (Rockefeller Foundation)

Raised by a mother with undiagnosed Parkinson’s disease and a father living with a crooked backbone, Christopher learned to look to the problems of the past to find solutions. His first move was to build a 17-page plan he shared with friends, who encouraged him to pursue the help of people of color to achieve the American dream.

Launching the educational initiative

After raising $ 3 million in nine months, including a major contribution from the Rockefeller Foundation, Christopher started Russell Technology Incubator in January 2021. Named after its headquarters, the incubator offers a curriculum focused on what it sees as the three essential elements needed for a successful business: capital, networking, and education.

The incubator welcomed the first grade with 34 students last year. All graduated and 27 businesses have now been set up and are doing well, Christopher said. A second class of 34 candidates is working through the one-year program.

“I knew there was no such thing as a start-up business community for blacks,” Christopher said. “If you had an idea and went to a bank or funding source to get money for your idea, you almost always ask what you have done so far? This is not the idea of ​​a startup. A startup is: I have this really great idea and I need something to help me try out the concept of the idea. “It does not exist for people of color, so I wanted to create it.”

The program is divided into four quarters. The first quarter is dedicated to discovering or understanding the business idea and what it needs. The second quarter is focused on education, learning the basics of business such as accounting, marketing and branding.

The third quarter deals with financing and how to raise capital to support your business, while the fourth is start-up oriented.

Each entrepreneur in the incubator is also assigned an asset strategy trainer to meet once or twice a month.

“Everyone who walks through our door, we believe is capable of doing whatever they choose to do. “They just do not have the resources,” he said. “We get credit for securing resources so they can do those amazing things.”

Russell Technology Incubator is a one-year program in Louisville, Kentucky, packed with seminars and mentors for those looking to start their own business. (Russell Technology Incubator)

The main requirement for consideration is that each candidate should have a specific business idea. “If anyone came up with an idea on the back of a napkin, they could put it in the incubator,” Christopher said.

The waiting list to apply has 500 people, ranging from those who have only one idea to others struggling to stay afloat after eight years in business.

The incubator provides the type of resources that most minority entrepreneurs do not have access to, including tutorials and experts on networking, business presentation, and mental health. “Every day you hit your head behind a brick wall that you did not even know existed,” he said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer acknowledged the need for an incubator during a press conference in July 2021. “We understand that we will not reverse the effects of the red line, the removal of investment, and the removal of the right overnight,” he said. Fischer said. “It will take time and dollars.”

The incubator meets for two hours every Thursday. There are seminars and mentoring sessions after graduation. “We’ve had great success stories,” Christopher said. “People are much better than a year ago.”

Facing challenges

Setting up legitimate businesses has not been easy. A recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of a restaurant three times larger than its previous location was a cause for celebration. But it was not without its obstacles. Christopher recalls facing flagrant racism with a tenant saying, “We do not think you will succeed here.” Other tactics include forcing potential owners of color to pay an excess deposit.

“This incubator breaks down all those barriers, issues and concerns that they face,” Christopher said. “We are not asking people to change the rules, unless they are systematic racist practices, which some are. I’m not asking you to rent it to me for less than you would rent it to someone else. I do not ask you to make concessions. “I just want you to do it the way you should do it – and do it justly.”

Christopher hopes his program becomes a national model to help close the financial gap between whites and people of color. LendingTree.com report shows that while 86.5 percent of all businesses in the United States are wholly owned, whites make up 72 percent of the U.S. population.

“The wealth gap is the same for people of color across the country,” Christopher said. “We are all at the bottom of the pile. “This is something that will work to change that.”

Edited by Fern Siegel and Matthew B. Hall

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Kentucky City’s Incubator Seeks To Produce More Black-Owned Businesses – Westside Story Newspaper – Online Source link Kentucky City’s Incubator Seeks To Produce More Black-Owned Businesses – Westside Story Newspaper – Online

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