Columbia Business Owner Uses Second Chance To Make A Difference In Community

Photography by Séan Alonzo Harris

Read the stories of these five minority entrepreneurs below.

For anyone aiming to start or expand a small business, one critical necessity trumps all the rest: the need for capital. And for people of color, that need has been growing more acute. During the economic expansion of 2002-2007, the Small Business Administration (SBA) increased its loans to African-American-run businesses by 60 percent, four times the rate of increase to Caucasian-owned firms. But after 2008, when the black community lost half its total wealth, SBA loans to African-American-run firms dropped by almost half, even as the SBA’s total loan volume increased by 25 percent.

Beyond the crucial issue of equal opportunity, there are important economic reasons to work against that disparity. Small businesses create about two-thirds of all new jobs in the private sector, and a lot of those jobs are in businesses with fewer than five employees, such as local dry cleaners, hairdressers, shoe stores, and diners. These so-called “micro businesses” carry outsized economic weight. If only a third of them hired a single person, according to one study, there would be full employment in the U.S.—and that would set off the virtuous circle in which increased consumer spending leads to more and better businesses and stronger communities, the bedrock for economic expansion.

That’s why “micro loans” to aspiring small-business entrepreneurs who don’t yet qualify for traditional bank loans have economic and social impact far beyond their face value.

Access to capital is especially crucial for businesses in distressed communities, where the need for jobs is greatest and conventional small-business loans can be hardest to get. To meet that challenge, JPMorgan Chase & Co. supports community development financial institutions (CDFIs), nonprofit sources of financing for businesses that don’t qualify for traditional funding. CDFIs also offer hands-on help with business plans, marketing, financial management, and other "back-office" disciplines required for success. As Janis Bowdler puts it in JPMorgan Chase's latest Corporate-Responsibility Report, CDFIs are “basically an on-ramp that enables entrepreneurs to turn their business idea into a reality.”

What follows are the stories of five minority entrepreneurs and the CDFIs that smoothed the path to greater prosperity for themselves and their communities.

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