New Report Highlights Struggles Faced by Black Women Entrepreneurs; Offers Roadmap for Solving Toughest Issues

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Walker’s Legacy report documents the experience of black women business owners and the significant barriers that may stem from their historical experience in the U.S.

WASHINGTON –October 4, 2016– The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) unveiled a new report today detailing the struggle faced by many black women business owners and offering a roadmap of solutions to help the next generation of black women entrepreneurs. Black Women Entrepreneurs:  Past and Present Conditions of Black Women’s Business Ownership, prepared for NWBC and the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy by Walker’s Legacy, a global women-in-business collective, details the findings of black women business owners who participated in three research events earlier this year. The report is one of a series of planned NWBC studies into subpopulations of female business owners, which will be released over the coming year.  

“Black women entrepreneurs are among the fastest growing groups of women-owned businesses in the country with more than 1.5 million black women business owners in the U.S., making up nearly 60 percent of all black business owners,” said Carla Harris, Chair of the National Women’s Business Council. “But while the success of black women entrepreneurs over the past ten years has been significant, challenges still remain. This important report highlights the strong history of black women entrepreneurship in the U.S., sheds light on current barriers black women face when starting and maintaining a business, and identifies components needed to help them continue to build and grow successful business ventures.”

“Black women play – and have played – a vital role in the entrepreneurial landscape with the U.S.” Natalie M. Cofield, Founder and CEO of Walker’s Legacy.

Cofield continued, “With this report, we’re proud to continue to champion the agenda of understanding, empowering and supporting black women business owners by raising this critical dialogue nationally,”

The results of the report stem from three 2016 events organized by Walker’s Legacy and held in Houston, New York City and Washington, D.C. Each event featured black female entrepreneurs, financial services representatives, government officials, business leaders, academics and business service providers, with black women business owners sharing their experiences with the current business environment and its challenges, as well as their path forward. The report presents an analysis of three common threads which surfaced in these discussions:

  • Flexibility and Fulfillment – Participants were motivated to start their own businesses for a variety of reasons, including following their passions, having more freedom and flexibility (including work-life balance), creating generational wealth and a legacy for their children, and giving back to their respective communities.
  • Access to Capital and Resources – Participants indicated “risk” and “fear” are key barriers to  accessing financial capital. Black women business owners describe the process of accessing funds for their businesses as “lengthy” and “exacerbated by a lack of information.” In addition, many indicated that racism and discrimination were contributing forces to the lack of access to financial capital. Participants also described the challenges of “not having a seat at the table” or at the “right tables,” as well as not having the social and human capital that would make them privy to key resources.

These successful business owners discussed the fear of rejection and denial in the loan application process; often times it was just “not worth it.” The participants described “borrowing from themselves first” and borrowing from family, rather than seeking traditional funding means.

  • Mentorship and Networks – In general, Black women business owners report there is a lack of quality, experienced mentors and sponsors who can not only support black women-owned businesses, but also champion their needs.

The report also makes recommendations, some of which are specifically tailored to black women business owners and stakeholders in the small business ecosystem, respectively. Recommendations specific to Black women business owners include:

  • Diversify: Black women entrepreneurs should continue to seek opportunities to broaden their networks and circles, push past boundaries and broaden their levels of comfort.
  • Build:  By cultivating new relationships and pursuing mechanisms to self-mentorship by examining examples of successful black business-women, black women entrepreneurs will be able to build their businesses using the same tools that others have successfully used in the past.
  • Alternate: Black women entrepreneurs should consider seeing non-traditional funding sources, such as crowdfunding. This will allow them to overcome the intimidating, daunting process of pursuing more traditional funding methods.

The report’s recommendations to stakeholders including increasing the number of black women angel investors (affluent individuals who provide financial capital for new business ventures); improving and expanding information and resource sharing targeting black women business owners, including local, community enterprise resource programs; further development of mentorship programs and networking opportunities for black women-owned businesses; and encouraging entrepreneurship programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), with incorporation of diverse curricula into these programs.

Read the full report on Black Women Entrepreneurs here.

Walker's Legacy

Walker’s Legacy is a digital platform for the professional and entrepreneurial multicultural woman and exists to inspire, equip, and engage through thought-provoking content, educational programming, and a global community.

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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.