The HBCU Community Development Action Coalition or HBCU CDAC is a non-profit dedicated to creating initiatives that benefit HBCU and minority-serving institutions (MSI), students, staff, and residents of the communities surrounding their campuses. HBCUs and MSIs have traditionally been located in lower-income areas where residents do not have the same economic opportunity as their more affluent counterparts. The Coalition combines funding from sponsors and human resources from the universities to develop programs that stimulate neighborhood revitalization and campus growth. Each program is also designed to enable corporate and philanthropic sponsors to benefit from their financial investment, ultimately allowing them to do well by doing good.
While still in the early launch phase, the HBCU Small Business Development program is tasked with supporting small minority-owned businesses with technology, tools, and other resources to help them thrive despite the hardships wrought upon them by the pandemic. As the economic lifeline of many communities, small businesses employ millions of people nationwide. Still, they are also the most vulnerable during economic downturns, especially businesses owned by people of color. According to research conducted by the University of California, Santa Cruz, and another report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 41 percent of Black-owned businesses—some 440,000 enterprises—have been shuttered by COVID-19, compared to just 17 percent of white-owned companies.
We asked Cynthia K. Beaulieu, a board member at HBCU CDAC and the Director of Southern University at New Orleans Small Business Development and Management Institute (SUNO – SBDMI) to give us her perspective on what small businesses need the most right now and what she hopes that this program can achieve.
What are the three most significant resources that would help minority businesses thrive?
In this current environment, the three most significant resources that would help minority businesses are 1. Capital access has been missing or denied to minority businesses for years. It is needed even more now during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is paramount in their survival. 2. Technical assistance. 3. Bankability.
What are the main priorities of the business incubators?
One of the main priorities of the small business incubator is to provide technical assistance. This will enable incubator tenants to take advantage of all available small business resources. It’s impossible for them to effectively compete if they don’t understand or have access to the latest technology resources. We want them to be exposed to what’s available and help them understand how they can access the latest tools and services.
How do you think small businesses need to pivot to survive in a post-COVID-19 world?
The most significant pivot for small businesses in our community is becoming proficient in operating virtually. They need to learn how to expand and grow their businesses in a society that is increasingly socially distanced while still efficiently delivering better and more services to their customers and the community.
These resources could not come at a better time for minority-owned small businesses that are facing unprecedented challenges. As Andre M. Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, says, the lack of wealth in the Black community has had an enormous impact on its ability to survive the pandemic. "Because a lot of Black business owners don't have the kind of equity due to structural racism, they have less of a cushion to withstand this particular moment in time." The companies that have survived need help more than ever. The Small Business Development Program supports and teaches businesses to compete and thrive during a strong economy and survive during an economic downturn.