U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, during a Friday stop in metro Atlanta, praised her agency’s work with black Greek organizations and for black entrepreneurs.
“We want to make sure our economy is inclusive,” Guzman told a room full of several generations of men dressed in brown and gold, brothers of Iota Phi Theta, Inc. Members of the historic black fraternity stand their 39th biennial conclave in Dunwoody this week.
Guzman’s shutdown came just over a year after the Small Business Administration (SBA) began to associate with the National Panhellenic Council, an organization of historically black fraternities and sororities commonly referred to as the “Divine Nine”, of which Iota Phi Theta is a part.
The SBA is using the partnership to strengthen black entrepreneurship in this country because the Divine Nine “is a powerful network,” Guzman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Each of the fraternities and sororities is connected to SBA district offices and resource partners for joint trainings, sharing information between the agency and the organizations.
At Friday’s meeting, Guzman detailed the resources small business owners can receive from SBA Business Development Centers. She explained how entrepreneurs could be part of the agency’s government procurement program and she highlighted the capital that the SBA provides through innovation grants, business loans, and business assistance. disaster.
In Metro Atlanta, 7.4% of businesses are owned by African Americans. A report of the online lending market LendingTree found that the Atlanta area has the highest rate of black-owned businesses in the United States. Nationally, 2.4% of employing businesses are black-owned, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of census data.
And just looking at the city of Atlanta, the rate of black businesses is much higher: About 20% of businesses in the city are black-owned, according to economic development authority Invest Atlanta.
For Iota Phi Theta and other Divine Nine members, the partnership with the SBA is intended to make it easier to achieve certain funding or corporate status.
“The SBA recognized that in the United States, probably the largest group of potential black small business owners are members of black Greek letter fraternities and sororities, because many of us already owned businesses, but we may not have felt comfortable going through the formal SBA process,” said Walter L. Fields, director of communications for Iota Phi Theta.
For local small business owners, the SBA’s Georgia District office is in Atlanta. The agency has also partnered with other metro Atlanta organizations to provide resources, such as the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, the Urban League, Morehouse College and the International Rescue Committee. In late 2021, IRC received an $800,000 grant from the SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program. Together with other DeKalb-based immigrant-serving nonprofits—the Latin American Association, the Refugee Women’s Network, and the Somali American Community Center—he has supported 318 diverse small businesses with free business advice. , technical assistance and help in completing loan applications. and grants.
Over the past two years, the SBA has also deepened its work with historically black colleges and universities, including opening a Women’s Business Center at Savannah State University in April 2022.
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