The Berkshire Black Economic Council Presents
The 2020 Berkshire County
Report - Entrepreneurship
a Report Of Black Economic Empowerment in the Berkshires
Table of Contents
How to Read the Report
The Domain Reports broken into 5 major sections.
- The Overview
- The Relevant Context
- The Ideas
- The Analysis
- The Recommendations
Overview – I
Entrepreneurship is the activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. Entrepreneurship is a major key in the economic development of any community.
Black entrepreneurs and business owners are supported throughout the life of their organization through the community and coupled with services that cater to their unique needs. This creates an influx of cash into the Black community by employing more Black people and increasing investment into other Black-owned startups.
- Create a better ecosystem for Black entrepreneurs in the Berkshires.
- Socioeconomic advancement through business, ownership, and asset building is vital for our community.
Idea Jam Activities
- Record insights into community members’ experience starting a business and being in business in the Berkshires.
- Identify resources available and resource needs of the community.
- Educate station jammers about entrepreneurship in the Berkshires.
Relevant Context – II
Before the Berkshire Black Economic Council came together, there was very little entrepreneurial support or infrastructure tailored to the unique needs of the Black community.
This is often addressed through chambers of commerce, economic development, or entrepreneurial support organizations addressing Black economic advancement. The existing organizations did not have the staff, training, or resources to make a significant impact on the problems faced by the Black business community in the Berkshires.
Investing in Black-owned businesses is good business.
“Here’s another misunderstanding: America’s small business owners aren’t white males anymore. The entrepreneurs of the future are women, people of color, and immigrants (who are also the entrepreneurs of our past). The number of women-owned businesses increased 31 times between 1972 and 2018, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Meanwhile, the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs among women-owned businesses is women of color; they are responsible for creating 64% of the new women-owned businesses. Additionally, immigrants start businesses at twice the rate of native-born Americans.
These shifts raise all kinds of questions for the stimulus and the recovery. Women and people of color are less likely to have relationships with traditional banks and the SBA, which have been the center of the stimulus package so far. Small businesses generally, and women-owned businesses specifically, are much more likely to make use of contractors. Early guidance by the SBA indicated that contractors would be included in the calculations of payroll, but final rules exclude them.”
Current Environmental Context
The gap between goodwill sentiment, resources, and infrastructure needed to follow through
During the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, there was an outpouring of support from our Berkshire community to businesses owned by African-Americans in Berkshire County. However, there was no centralized digital space for the greater Berkshire County to connect with its African-American business owners and easily access their information.
Many of our allies wanted to connect with and support Black-owned businesses within the Berkshire County Region. The Black community, in a call for more economic support for African American businesses, also intends to direct more support with their dollar to Black and Brown businesses.
There was no public directory for funding organizations to communicate available resources to these businesses, thus creating a communication gap for available resources between resources-based organizations and African American businesses and organizations.
Findings – III
- Barriers exist to secure business support for Black and African American small business owners, including the capital, business planning, financial and legal advice and services.
- Historically, financial institutions have not considered minorities a key segment when it comes to successful businesses.
- Specific to the Berkshires, we have Black and African American community members who are 1st generation and come from low-income homes. Programs and services that do not take this into account are often a mismatch for Black and African community members looking to start their business.
- Financial Literacy is a barrier for the local community when it comes to starting a business.
- New businesses can be met with skepticism and parochial attitudes.
- There is no centralized place to market the black communities businesses and products in the Berkshires.
- Difficulties getting loans from banks/ capital to start up.
- A need for out of the box creative thinking with business plan modeling.
- Supporting the diverse talent pool in Berkshire County can help foster entrepreneurial success.
- The Berkshires are small enough that we can make significant progress.
- Low cost of living in the Berkshires.
- Berkshire transplants usually do well.
- The entrepreneurial spirit is healthy in the community.
- The Berkshires is known for Life/work balance.
- More research and resources around grants and loans designed for Black business owners.
- Development of alternative business models
- Resources for lawyers and legal support.
- Access to legal representation and resources.
- Available offering of grants/loans for first-time business owners/ grant writing
- Emphasis on supporting all our Black businesses, doing business with them, and continuing to foster and grow momentum.
- Training on how to preserve work/life balance
- Robust supply and diversity program and minority contracts with corporations
- Institutional racism blocking access to capital
- Lack of robust diversity, equity and inclusion policies
What Idea Jam Participants had to say
Business ideas and feedback surfaced when asked whether jammers had started or owned a business.
- “I have given thought to opening a business. I love cooking, I have considered opening a soul food restaurant or a mix of West African west indian restaurant. My fear is that there is not enough of us out here to be successful. “
- “I am a makeup artist – I know quite a few people who own their own businesses, young Black, African Americans who own their own business.”
- “I do know someone who started a dispensary, and there was a lot of licensing, loopholes, distribution, and government taxes. It can be pretty complicated depending on what business you are investing in. I am interested in starting my own business.”
- “I don’t know yet what I want to do, there are a lot of things going on with the economy. My first thought is a Recreation Center of some kind.”
- “I have a sole proprietorship, I’d like to access more resources.”
- “My brothers and I are exploring getting into business, so this is informational to me right now.”
- “I am a freelance artist – i have spent much of my time looking at the nonprofit model. I promote people, especially artists who are marginalized. It is toxic and problematic in many ways as a Black person. I am also looking at alternative business models which are equitable and profitable.”
- “I am interested in LLC / NGO/ Cooperative differences and how to find tax info resources.”
Existing Resources within the Berkshire ecosystem
- Black Economic Council
- NAACP, Berkshire County Branch
- Multicultural Bridge
- R3SET Enterprises
- Schumacher Center
- City of Pittsfield
- Shirley Jackson
- Warren Dews
- Auric Enchill
- Aj Enchill
- Alfred Enchill
- Dubois Thomas
- John Lewis
- Technical assistance, CPA Assistance, Marketing assistance Grants and loans for small business through Pittsfield Community Development office
- Schumacher Center For Economics Entrepreneurship program
- Business Pittsfield Website
Analysis – IV
Where are we now? Where do we want to go? What do we need to get there?
Where are we now?
Overview of the challenges, opportunities, risks, insights.
We need to ADD DATA on Black-owned businesses in the area, similar to the data from jam, to gain more insight into the challenges current owners and prospective entrepreneurs face.
Challenges & Needs
Within the Berkshire ecosystem, we’ve identified a number of areas for improvement, including:
- A need for representation in local organizations (both staff & leadership).
- A need for more personal and professional connections between resources, resource decision makers and allocators, and community members.
- There is no ecosystem or framework specifically customized to inspire the Black community to go into business and build wealth.
- There’s a need for robust policies to address racialized barriers and attitudes towards Black folks.
- Develop an incubator space with established Black entrepreneurs to inspire, guide and support budding entrepreneurs and an entrepreneurial mindset.
- Some Black folks are not traditionally banked so they do not have the established banking relationship to get loans; therefore, they need more grant opportunities.
Mentoring programs for new and young entrepreneurs.
Where do we want to be?
Socioeconomic advancement through business, ownership, and asset building is vital for our community.
We believe the Berkshires can be a destination for Black entrepreneurs and business owners to be supported throughout the life of their organization through the community and services. There is a rich and diverse grouping of Black and African American talent in the Berkshires that can be tapped into, cultivated, and supported to help the Black community and the Berkshires as a whole prosper.
Recruiting, employing, and supporting Black entrepreneurs will help the community increase wealth and provide investment and capital building opportunities within, and for other, black-owned startups.
- A website and centralized marketing campaign for people to find and support Black-owned businesses in the Berkshires
- Black Accountants – Find a good accountant to answer these questions”
- Supplier diversity program
- Entrepreneurial training and support systems for the black community
- Business directory – # businesses, the business sector
- Community outreach positions at businesses to improve community connectedness
- Organize more structures that can receive local and state funding for the Black Community that are operated by Black community members
- Fully funded Black Economic Council
- Financial Literacy Program
- East/West Political Advocacy Support with local political officials economic development funds
Recommendations – V
How are we going to close the gap?
The Recommended Solution:
“The Negro will have to build his own industry, art, sciences, literature, and culture before the world will stop to consider him.”
“A race that is solely dependent upon another for its economic existence sooner or later dies.”
― Marcus Garvey, Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey
As a step in the process, the Black Economic Council is exploring best-practice approaches from other regions that can inform the development of their collective vision and goals. These learning opportunities are also designed to involve key community stakeholders who share this vision in order to build a stronger shared understanding of the critical importance of this work; develop actionable ways to accomplish common goals that provide greater economic opportunity; and increase the overall economic vitality of the region.
Recommendation # 1
Black Economic Council
The aim of the Black Economic Council is to continue to foster, design, and build a supportive ecosystem for Black and other minority-owned businesses in the Berkshires. This overall goal can be supported through the implementation of ownership education and investment strategies that support wealth-building and inclusive enterprise; community development initiatives; and impact investments that support the objective of fostering economic growth and development among all Black community stakeholders.
Organizational Support/Development for Black Business
Black Business and Economic Advocacy
Business Networking, Partnership/Collaboration via Membership Development
Recommendation # 2
Funding and Investment
Business and Economic Impact Funding.
Mobilizing patient Capital and technical assistance resources
Research and development
Recommendation # 3
Digital Place-Based Marketing, Media, and Commerce
Marketing and Media Platform for Black Business and Black Culture:
To market their businesses,
Share stories about Black Culture,
Advertise products and services,
Generate commerce for the Black community and the Berkshire Community at large.
Recommendation # 4
- Supplier Diversity Program/ Inclusive Contract Procurement
- Ownership of Essential Economic Infrastructure
- Establishing “Set Aside Programs” among resources to be directly allocated to the Black Community.
Recommendation # 5
Business Education and Mentorship
- Financial literacy and Financial Wealth Education
- Youth Entrepreneurship Education
- Mentorship Roundtable for Black Businesses
Recommendation # 6
East/West Political Advocacy and Support
- Accessing Established Infrastructure for Black Business
- Partnership and Member of BECMA
- State Political Advocacy for Black Business
- Economic Development Funds from the State to Berkshires
Recommendation # 7
Growth and Sustainability
- Success Idea Jam Leadership
- Advisory Committee and Roundtable
- Leadership Development Program for Black Community Stakeholders
- Leadership Development Program for Regional Community Stakeholders
- Collaborative Partnership building/Impact Evaluation/Action and Strategic Planning
What’s Happening Now
Projects That Are Currently In Progress
Researching the Community
A quick “pulse” level survey to the 70 black-owned businesses in Berkshire County to assess immediate needs in order to stabilize—and matching continuity funds with capacity-building resources to support ways to adapt the business.
Berkshire Black Economic Council Organization Development:
A Steering Committee has been formed by Black Community leaders and Stakeholders. We have met for 6 months to determine our Impact Charter, Team Roles, Communication Plan, and Idea Jam Facilitation.
Continued Organizational Development
Secure Operational Funding
BEC Market and Community Development:
The Black Economic Council is exploring best-practice approaches from other regions that can inform the development of their collective vision and goals. Learning opportunities are also designed to involve key community stakeholders who share this vision to build a stronger shared understanding of the critical importance of this work and ways to accomplish our common goals. Providing greater economic opportunity and increasing the overall economic vitality of the region.
Black Berkshire Website/Digital Community Empowerment Platform
A centralized, curated “Community Empowerment Platform” to showcase Black Culture and the Black Experience in Berkshires.
The platform will highlight to upper New England how the Berkshires is a great place to live, work, and play for Black Entrepreneurs, Educators, Remote workers, Artist, and Technologists
Entrepreneurial Development Impact Fund:
Entrepreneurial programming which caters specifically to, and is led by/representative of, Black entrepreneurs and business owners. BBEC is currently exploring collaborative programming and services in partnership with EForAll and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
Supplier Diversity Programming
Initiative to bring more business to, and incentivize corporate contracts with, minority business owners in the Berkshires
Black Enterprise Impact Fund
Capital and Wealth Building
Starting our own Bank.
- MacBride, Elizabeth, and Seth Levine. “To Save the US Economy, Policymakers Need to Understand Small Business 101.” CNBC, CNBC, 14 Apr. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/04/14/to-save-the-economy-policymakers-need-to-know-small-business-101.html?utm_content=bufferb799a.
- BBEC SUCC3SS Virtual Idea Jam
Idea Jam Facilitators
Warren Dews Jr., Dews Management
Auric Enchill, Elegant Stitches
Alfred Enchill, Elegant Stitches
John Lewis, R3SET
Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET
Patrick Danahey, R3SET
Devin Shea, R3SET
Alyssa Mack, SP3AK EASY Studio
Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET
Segun Idawoo, BECMA
Malia Lazu, MIT
A gap analysis is an examination and assessment of current performance for the purpose of identifying the differences between the current state of business affairs and where you’d like to be. It can be boiled down into a few questions:
Where are we now? Where do we want to go? What do we need to get there?
Table of Contents
About the 2020 Berkshire County SUCC3SS Idea jam
The 2020 Berkshire County SUCC3SS Idea Jam was a community event series designed to create a holistic, collaborative framework for a successful ecosystem for Berkshire Black businesses, community members, and the Berkshire County community at large.
The community came together using an Idea Jam methodology to est a vision of establishing the Berkshires as a model for Black Economic empowerment for counties across the North East.
The jams were held at the beginning of COVID-19, after transitioning the series from an in-person experience.