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African-American Business Professionals Share Tools and Resources for Small and Microbusiness Owners

By Tricia Hall
Sojourner’s Truth Reporter

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, a group of African American business professionals discussed the impact and resources available for business professionals during a 90-minute Facebook Live event on Thursday, May 7, 2020.

Will Lucas, the founder and owner of Creadio, served as panel moderator. The panelists included: Kala Gibson, executive vice president and head of Business Banking for Fifth Third Bank; Jeff Johnson, chief of the Minority Business Development Division for the State of Ohio; Craig Teamer, Finance and Special Projects Manager for Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and Ambrea Mikolajczyk, owner of Ark Restoration.

“We’re going to be talking about a few things, particularly black-owned businesses and small businesses. It’s because we’re taking a disproportionate hit economically and physically from the pandemic,” stated Lucas.

The panelists discussed why African-American business owners, small or microbusiness owners need assistance during the pandemic that has a higher mortality rate in the African-American community.

“When you get hit with coronavirus and your business must shut down for a period of time, it’s hard to sustain yourself. It’s hard if you’re not generating enough cash to keep on hand, because a disturbance like this can be detrimental,” explained Johnson.

One common theme among all the panelists was the importance of building banking relationships and outlining specific areas that should become a priority if lacking. For instance, entrepreneurs should update their business plan, work on improving their credit score, understand the difference between personal and company credit, develop a marketing strategy and update financial projections.

“It’s incredibly important to have strong banking relationships. We all heard the statistics about how minority-owned businesses were shut out of the Paycheck Protection program (PPP). You should know the names of your teller, banking manager and branch manager. These individuals should know your business plan and how you want to grow your business, so they know how to leverage their capital. Never be afraid to talk to everyone about your business needs, when you’re trying to propel your business forward. Look at your banking institution as your business partner who can ensure your growth,” said Mikolajczyk.

“Banking institutions like Fifth Third have community bankers, and their job is to assist businesses. We used our community bankers to reach out, grab and bring in those small business owners into our banking locations. And for those who are not bankable now, we want to assist you so you’re ready in the future. It’s not just about access to capital, but also providing our clients access to information,” added Gibson.

The Toledo area has several available community partners that have loans and grants available specifically to address recovery of local businesses.

“The Port Authority provides financial economic development. The Port Authority has stepped in to provide access to capital for business owners who may not have relationships with bankers. At the Port we are here to help businesses, we don’t hold onto capital, and now is the time that institutions need to offer liquidity. Our doors at the Port are open and we understand that this is a tough time, we want to be a part of the solution to make sure that businesses have access to information and capital to make it through to the other side,” explained Teamer.

“Once this pandemic hit, we worked with our business partners to provide access to ecommerce training, touchless retail, and incorporating technology into their businesses. We’re helping them adjust to this new normal,” added Johnson.

The Toledo African American Chamber of Commerce (TAACC) provides resources that can benefit African American small business owners and entrepreneurs. The TAACC offers three distinct programs year-round: a mentor program that pairs a mentee with a seasoned professional who maps out the mentee strategic milestones; a legal assistance program and also the technology education and support program.

“African American entrepreneurs and small business owners should connect with organizations designed to support them, there’s many but I’ll just name a few like TAACC, Jumpstart and ASSETS Toledo,” said Roy Hodge, TAACC president and CEO of REH Systems Solutions. “Those are three in the minority community whose mission is solely developing entrepreneurs. There are also on-going free webinars offered by TAACC and Jumpstart that are available on their websites and Facebook. It’s important that entrepreneurs increase their knowledge and skill set so they can pivot to a new model, we characterize this new model as e-commerce. A good example of e-commerce is Amazon. The rest of the world is pivoting to that model and COVID has accelerated that direction.”

The Facebook Live event was organized by the Toledo Lucas County Health Department.

Local resources for businesses:

·         African American Chamber of Commerce, 419-407-6697

·         City of Toledo Minority Business Center Emergency Microenterprise Recovery Grant Program for for-profit businesses with five or few employees and priority consider for applicants that didn’t receive PPP funding (open for applications May 11-24, visit http://toledo.oh.gov/emrgrant)

·         Jumpstart, 567-218-1717

·         Lucas County Public Library, 419-259-5200

·         SCORE, virtual mentoring each Tuesday and Thursday from two to five people, 419-259-7598

·         Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority offers Small Business Administration 504 Loan program, Diversified Contractor Accelerator Program, 419-243-8251

·         Toledo Regional Chambers of Commerce: Northwest Ohio Business Reboot Initiative, Small Business Development Center, and business-related webinars, 419-243-8191



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/14/20 11:22:37 -0400.

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