Black Women and Small Business: Avenues for Aid

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Career womenToday’s competitive economy has forced millions of workers to think and behave like entrepreneurs. Thousands of African American women are using this opportunity to start up their own businesses. Innovative women are driving the small business revolution and achieving their dreams at the same time.

The 2007 Survey of Business Owners revealed that over 900,000 African American women identified themselves as small business owners. Spurred by the economic difficulties of the recession, the number of female entrepreneurs has continued to rise over the course of the last several years. This trend is bound to continue, for the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute predicts that female-owned small businesses will account for one-third of all new jobs added to the economy by 2018.

Black women may be leading the way in the small business revolution, but they still face a number of unique challenges. For example, while women own roughly one-third of small businesses, they receive a much smaller slice of the pie in terms of federal government dollars. In 2006, female small business owners received only 3.4 percent of federal dollars offered to entrepreneurs. The good news is, since then, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has instated a 5 percent procurement program for small businesses owned by women.

There are additional avenues that struggling minority business owners may be able to take in order to allow their new businesses to thrive. Many find that obtaining classification as a disadvantaged business owner works wonders when it comes to procuring aid. Those eligible for classification as small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) or disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) are required to complete Statements of Disadvantage. This requirement affirms that applicants are, indeed, members of disadvantaged groups. Black women, of course, have no trouble fulfilling this requirement, as they possess minority status in terms of both race and gender.

In addition to qualifying as SDBs and DBEs, businesses owned by African American women can also receive classification as Women Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs). Those struggling to get by will find this a viable option. Applicants must come from small businesses in which at least 51 percent of ownership involves economically disadvantaged women. For the purposes of this program, the Small Business Administration defines economically disadvantaged as having a personal net worth of less than $750,000. Women able to prove a net worth below this level may have improved access to the loans necessary to get their businesses off the ground.

Getting by can be difficult in such a stagnant economy. However, with new Small Business Administration programs available for disadvantaged populations, more black women can now leave behind both the unemployment line and the jobs providing them with little to no life satisfaction. Starting up a small business is the perfect way to pursue one’s true passion while also revitalizing the economy. And, as hundreds of thousands of black women have already proven, with grit and determination, the dream of owning a small business can become a reality.