- The Bronx in New York City is home to the largest population of African diaspora in the U.S. Michael Blake opened the conversation discussing the current situation in his district, South Bronx, for black-owned businesses in light of COVID-19. Statistics show that 41% of black-owned businesses and 32% of Latino-owned businesses have closed, highlighting the effects of the pandemic on minority communities. In response, Blake’s office has identified the most critical points to helping these businesses recover, like access to financial capital to help businesses continue paying rent and payroll. Looking forward, Blake welcomed President-elect Joe Biden’s promise to protect small businesses on the path to recovery through funding and support.
“COVID-19 has been devastating for many reasons. Not only has it led to a loss of life, but it has also led to a loss of businesses. It is forcing a reimagination of our entrepreneurs and communities,” Michael Blake
- Building on Blake’s comments, Vivian Onano raised the question of what actions have already been taken to combat the impacts of COVID-19 on small businesses, and what has made them successful. Blake spotlighted the Bronx Community Relief Effort, which raised around $15 million to support approximately 500 businesses that were facing financial challenges due to COVID-19. Furthermore, the program recognized the failure of larger institutions and the Paycheck Protection Program to meet the needs of minority business owners and, instead, partnered with local banks and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to provide minority business owners with access to capital. The success of this program and other similar programs lies in their ability to reimagine what entrepreneurship and financial access look like in the context of the pandemic, rather than returning to traditional methods.
- Shifting focus from the U.S. to Africa, Mmabatho Maboya discussed how entrepreneurship has been reimagined for businesses in the incubator program that she leads. These businesses have focused strongly on becoming more agile, allowing them to quickly adjust and pivot their business models under uncertain circumstances. Through the incubator’s recently-developed COVID Economic Support Program, the entrepreneurs worked side-by-side with consultants to identify areas their businesses could branch out and diversify into, allowing them to become more resilient and responsive. The program also provided mentoring and networking, ensuring that the incubator businesses have a community they can rely on and do not have to go through the recovery process alone.
“From this pandemic, we have seen that connectivity and accessibility are key. How can we provide these services to those who are on the outskirts?” Mmabatho Maboya