With a new initiative, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia is following up on a 2021-created program aiming to better support minority owned businesses as they work with anchor institutions in Philadelphia.
Two years ago, the Economy League set out to help these businesses through the Philadelphia Anchors For Equity and Growth (PAGE) program. This program targeted minority-owned businesses who weren’t seeing the growth they should’ve or who were seeing success outside of the Philadelphia region, but not locally.
Last week, the research and policy nonprofit launched PAGE 100, an initiative to track these minority owned businesses as they work with anchor institutions to see what’s is helping and what’s hurting them. Kenyatta James, program director for the PAGE program, said the idea is to have a “mutual information sharing system.” Businesses that participate in PAGE 100 will receive access to all services businesses normally get as part of PAGE, including grants, technical assistance, one on one consulting and introductions. But they will also be asked to share with the Economy League updates about how their company is doing.
“One of the problems that we all have in the nonprofit world is that it’s hard to know what specific thing has the long-term benefit you want over time when it comes to supporting the growth and development of small businesses,” he said. “So the PAGE 100 is an attempt to rectify that issue, or at least to gain a deeper understanding by tracking a community of businesses over time.”
James said they want to understand how these businesses grow, how services and grants have an impact on businesses and what impact institutional contracts have. To start out, James said they’ve identified about 25 businesses that already had some involvement with the Economy League. He said the nonprofit wants to be familiar with at least the first 25 to 50 companies who participate.
The nonprofit plans to complete continuous polling of theses businesses every three to six months to start out, along with directing resources and hosting industry-specific networking events for them. James said they also want to ask deeper questions about revenue projections, access to capitol and banking relationships.
“We want to give the PAGE 100 some time for us to build it out,” James said. “One, so that we can really get good at tracking this data over time and two, so that we can really customize and build out our programming based on the feedback of those initial businesses.”
He said they are looking for businesses who are ready to work with anchor institutions in Philadelphia. This means they understand how to write the correct style of invoices and submit requests for proposals, for example. Aside from the businesses being minority-owned or women-owned local businesses, he said they are also specifically looking at businesses in a few specific industries, including IT, catering and professional services.
James said they plan to pilot this program with these initial businesses for at least a year and use the information they collect to inform how the program will move forward. They’ll then launch a 100 to 200 businesses index next year.
The Economy League also plans to use the information they collect to create reports and work with the City, minority chambers, community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and anchor institutions to inform them of challenges facing the minority business community and come up with solutions.
“If we want to make the city better and really help businesses grow, we need to understand what was effective, we need to understand why things are effective and then we need to replicate the best models,” said James. “And that’s part of what the PAGE 100 gives us the opportunity to do, it gives us the opportunity to make informed decisions about how we help businesses so that businesses actually see growth.”Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 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.
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