Small business owners of color face challenges unlike those of their white peers, often in a lack of access to capital, business opportunities and professional networks.
But United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey announced Tuesday that it is aiming to support the growth of Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial community by creating Built By Philly, a new initiative designed to guide the progress of small businesses by owners from marginalized backgrounds. It is partnering with the City of Philadelphia‘s Department of Commerce, and PIDC.
The Built By Philly initiative is a product of the Philadelphia Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Assessment, a study conducted to analyze how the city’s racial demographics connect to business ownership data. The study found that Black and Latinx residents make up 44% and 17%, respectively, of the city’s population, yet only own 5% and 4% of Philly’s small businesses.
United Way Managing Director of Employment, Opportunity and Entrepreneurship Michael Banks asserted the need for small business owners of color to have more success in local business.
“Small businesses play a critical role in helping shape and grow our local economy. If we want to build our city, we need to close the racial wealth gap and present equitable avenues for economic opportunity,” he said in a statement. “This assessment gave us clear direction and specific action items in addressing these challenges and inequities — and implementation begins now.”
During a press conference Tuesday at Kensington’s IF Labs, IF Labs founder Tayyib Smith was joined by Banks, Urbane Principal and CEO James Johnson-Piett, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Jennifer Rodriguez as they revealed the Built by Philly microsite, a digital tool that is the first step in a thirteen-step action plan designed to feature entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and their struggles in building businesses. JPMorgan Chase is supporting the initiative with a $750,000 grant to launch the microsite.
The Built By Philly microsite will live as a digital resource, and will eventually work to connect business owners from marginalized backgrounds to resources like capital, education and networking opportunities while continuing to champion the voices of entrepreneurs of color from Philly communities as they share what they’ve learned during their professional journeys.
The website currently operates as and brands itself as a platform for BIPOC entrepreneurs. On it, Built By Philly expressed current challenges, solutions and featured work. For example, the org outlines that there’s a gap for smaller raises of capital for founders of color in Philly. It points out a solution to build more sources of friends and family rounds of funding, then links to where folks might find it, like this collective of 20 financial institutions.
With this funding, and the assessment as a compendium of data on Philly small business, the Built by Philly team will work over the next months to create new paths for entrepreneurs to build sustainable and scalable businesses. More of the collective’s 13 steps will be available soon.
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.-30-