Free Webinar Series Supports Black Biz
By Dianne Anderson
Some 40% of Black businesses have crashed over the last nearly two years of the COVID shutdown, while some owners have managed to soar to new heights.
Pepi Jackson knows that it’s not luck. It’s access to money and strategy.
While many businesses have gone under, he said others have managed to pivot and go in a different direction, making the best of a bad situation.
“But some of them will not be able to recover unless they have to build up some capital, and some of them are out of the game completely,” said Jackson, president of the Riverside County Black Chamber of Commerce.
Jackson is one of the presenters in a webinar series running throughout October. The Entrepreneurship Launch event, a collaboration between Inland Empire Small Business Development Center and Riverside County African American Taskforce, runs Thursdays from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Starting October 7, they will cover Legal Structures and Licensing. October 14 features Cottage Food Operations Overview. On October 21, Marketing and Social Media Basics, and October 28 covers Financial Projections and Funding.
Even through the hard times, in today’s business economy, he said one good thing is that so much can be handled online. Some businesses take off fast, but he warns growth spurts that can catch a business off guard.
“If they grow so quickly, they can’t meet the demand for the merchandise, we caution and we plan for ways to anticipate that. What happens if you grow at 75%, are you prepared to supply?” he said.
Until a business is ready to roll, researching the market landscape to determine the demand for the product is key. Businesses usually grow incrementally, he said, but it’s important to guide entrepreneurs to ensure that the right mechanisms are in place.
“What is my product, where am I going to get my product from, how much is the product going to cost? That’s the biggest time-consuming piece,” he said. “If your idea has a potential surefire line of potential clients, half the battle is already done,” he said.
One of the easiest access points for Black and Brown businesses is within the food industry. It’s a popular entry-level where skill sets may be based on the family tradition.
“Recipes in the family, it’s the baddest BBQ sauce you ever tasted, it’s tradition. Yes, I would say minority business [leans] 70-80% to the service industry,” Jackson said.
Among the topics covered in the series, he feels that marketing and funding are the lifeblood of commerce. Also, to be able to identify the market, the working capital so that the business owner is capable of delivering their product.
“With those things, you’ll figure out your legal structure and license requirement. Without the cash flow, none of the other stuff happens,” he said.
Stacey Allis agrees that marketing and financials are essential, and the Cottage Food Operations are also in the lineup because it’s very popular in the region.
Administering food operations takes skill, even out of a food truck, and it requires knowledge of regulation and distribution methods.
“There’s health and public safety. That’s why our Small Business Development Center has food experts consultants,” said Allis, assistant director Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE).
The Inland Empire SBDC is a top-tier program of the IECE, which along with their Women assistance Centers, are also co-sponsoring the series, with SBDC also presenting in the series.
She said that IECE has a variety of programming for students and young entrepreneurs. Recently, their Women Business Centers rolled out their Women of Color series, which is hoped to shed light on available federally funded and complimentary services that they may not be familiar with.
Also coming up, their first IECE State of Entrepreneurship report will highlight the voices of the community in local cities and counties. With it, the center will have a better idea of the hindrances facing businesses, and how they are – or not – supported by city governments.
“It will give us a good idea where the hindrances are, if they’re not being supported by city, government, we really speak for the voice of the entrepreneurs,” she said.
Their services are in demand. She said this past year they’ve had to increase their staff. They want communities to access their experts and dedicated services, many of which are low cost, and most of which are free.
It’s been a different and difficult market in the past year for a lot of small businesses, yet there are also some success stories for those that don’t give up.
“There has been a lot of pivoting and a lot of recovery and transitioning, but we are seeing business starts to tick back up. It depends, we lost some of course, and there are some who are right back at it.”
To participate in the Entrepreneurship Launch, see: ociesbdc.org/s1
To learn more about CSUSB Entrepreneurship and Women of Color series, see www.thinklikeanowner.org