It is common for entrepreneurs to face a myriad of challenges when entering the business world. For Black entrepreneurs, starting a company can come with additional systemic barriers such as loan discrimination, lack of ability to accumulate and pass on generational wealth, and policies that undercut Black wealth and economic development.
The Koffman Incubator’s SBB607 Accelerator program is bolstering Black businesses by offering tailored programming based on the needs of participants. A new program for 2021, the first cohort of businesses and entrepreneurs hailed from the Support Black Businesses 607 Facebook group (the 607 referencing the local area code), a popular page with over 6,000 followers.
Seeing the hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and wanting to promote equality in the regional small business community, Sulaiminah Burns began the Support Black Business 607 Facebook page. Her idea was to create a platform where local Black owned businesses could showcase their offerings, events and achievements, as well as support and uplift fellow business owners. More than 10 businesses have already successfully gotten on their feet because of Burns’ initiative.
Fabiola Moreno, program coordinator of the Binghamton I-Corps site, got invited to the Facebook group last year. Seeing that some of the businesses could benefit from the support of the free programs offered by the Koffman, she reached out to Burns. Continued outreach sparked an entire program to support Black businesses looking to start or grow.
“We actually went out and built this program from the ground up with guidance from the people from the community that we wanted to serve,” said Eric Krohn, Koffman’s director of business incubation programming and one of the instructors for the SBB607 Accelerator program.
“We saw a community that was making great strides in uplifting each other to support minority owned businesses and we worked with them to create the course,” said Moreno, who worked closely with Burns to establish a program structure that would benefit SBB607 members the most.
The SBB607 Accelerator program is held multiple times throughout the year in four-week sessions with five to ten companies or start-up ideas. Each session consists of weekly virtual meetings, as well as assigned objectives. Participants in the SBB607 Accelerator learn concepts and skills such as the business model canvas, organizing finances, branding and marketing, and building a network. Further support is provided by Binghamton’s Small Business Development Center.
By collaborating with Burns, Moreno was able to secure $20,000 through the Community Foundation for South Central New to support program operations, as well as create micro-grants for participants. These will be used to support underrepresented minority individuals with the costs related to starting or growing a business, such as permits/licenses, incorporation, specialized equipment, website development, etc.
“Any new business needs money, especially minority owned businesses that have had more trouble getting loans from banks,” Moreno noted. “We are working to create micro-grant programs in addition to the educational programs. We want to provide financial support to the groups to really ensure a solid foundation.”
As a Hispanic woman of Mexican origin, Moreno sees it as especially important to be a relatable face in the business space for minority entrepreneurs. For this reason, the Koffman is looking to bring in more instructors of color to their programs and expand on the resources offered to women and minority owned businesses. The next cohort will take place in February during Black History Month.