Businesses small and large have been struggling to keep their doors open in such a turbulent year. The pandemic and unrest over civil inequity have both aided and hurt many minority-owned businesses.

The growing outrage of the abundance of images of unarmed Black people murdered by police as in the recent cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Rayshard Brooks, and a worldwide spotlight on racial and civil equity in the United States have created new networks in previously separated communities. In late June, social network groups and individual user posts began requesting information on minority-owned businesses they could support in their communities.

These connections may bridge decades of discourse and, perhaps, help level the playing field for minority and black-owned businesses. In the past, non-Black consumers were hesitant to deal with or unlikely to seek out Black vendors. More rarely were vendors of color able to establish and retain business in predominantly caucasian communities leaving few avenues for vendors to market goods and services.

The new generation of Black Entrepreneurs has more access to capital, information, and diverse knowledge in their niche aspects of business, which bolsters opportunities for them to succeed.

“One of the positive dynamics when we talk about entrepreneurship, and black entrepreneurship in particular; today’s black entrepreneurs have greater potential access to capital than their predecessors in the past,” said Dr. Robert Weems, Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History at Wichita State University. “As we know, regardless of your racial or gender makeup is, capital is key in terms of starting business and sustaining a business.”

Something that has been helping all small businesses are federal and local grants through CARES Act funding and other COVID-19 emergency response action. But, because many Black entrepreneurs often work outside of business circles, information on getting assistance with grants, loans, and even business management can be hard to come by.

Dr. Weems credits businesses like the Create Campaign Wichita and President & CEO Christina Long for reinvigorating Black business and also serving as an incubator for startups. “2020 is not 1920 or 1950, there are opportunities available. Sometimes people can get caught up in the past and not really see what’s available today. This isn’t to say there still aren’t obstacles that African American entrepreneurs have to face. But it’s not the type or the intensity of obstacles Black entrepreneurs faced decades ago,” Dr. Weems said.

Sedgwick County has been accepting applications for small business grants totaling $5,000 each in CARES Act money for businesses that qualify to address the COVID-19 impact. It’s an opportunity that some won’t want to let slip passed them. Darrius Wright, of the Kansas Business Service, says it’s vital that underserved communities be aware of resources that provide access to information on such grants for support.

“For people who are desperately in need, first and foremost, they have to know that resources are available,” said Darrius Wright, Principal and Sr. Research Analyst, Kansas Business Service. “A lot of the resources just in the State of Kansas I can speak of, they are interested very much in making sure they reach underserved Kansas communities.”

The county is currently looking to release $5,000 to 1,000 companies. To apply, go to the Sedgwick County website. The application deadline closes Oct 7, unless extended.

COVID-19 Safe Operating Small Business Grant Program

Business PPE Supply Kit Request

Economic Development & Connectivity