When I filmed this conversation with my longtime friend Willie Hill, I had no clue how relevant this discussion would quickly become. As white people and white-led organizations have become increasingly aware of the impacts of structural racism on the lives of Black and Brown members of our communities, I find myself returning over and over again to what I’ve had the honor of learning from Willie Hill through years of trying to support his work at the Greater Cincinnati MicroEnterprise Initiative, an organization that strives to train, support and fund many of the most disadvantaged entrepreneurs and small business owners in my region.
You can watch our conversation above, or listen to it on Soundcloud here. You can also pick up this and other AccelerateUs interviews on Stitcher or Spotify as part of the Building a Wise Local Economy podcast.
More than any other entrepreneurial leader that I’ve know nationwide, Willie and GCMINation have shown me something that white-led organizations often miss: Success in business has as much to do with your community support as with your financial support. Black- and low-income entrepreneurs face an extraordinary array of challenges, and one of the biggest is that generations of damage from organizations that were supposed to help means that trusting systems and building trusting relationships requires something very different from the typical “Start a business” class. Through more than a decade of working side by side with these business owners, Willie and GCMI have developed strategies that build trust and confidence, as well as community. But as he points out, that’s also the hardest part to convince grant sources to fund.
This conversation also gets into the challenges of making microloans to help these entrepreneurs reach their potential – funding options that almost every study of entrepreneurship says are necessary, but that are almost impossible to deliver without a funding source to cover the higher percentage of overhead cost per loan that microloans require.
You can learn more about the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative at GCMINation.org, or find them on Instagram or Facebook. For the study that I mention during the conversation, check out The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership In America: Untapped Opportunities for Success from the Association for Enterprise Opportunity.