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
“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
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)
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