By Kalyn Hove, vice president, Comcast Business, Twin Cities Region
While ongoing effects from the pandemic have impacted countless businesses, a recent National Bureau of Economic Research study revealed Black, Indigenous and People of Color-owned (BIPOC) organizations have taken a bigger hit than most. Nationally, the number of Black business owners plummeted last year from 1.1 million in February 2020 to 640,000 in April — a 41% loss in just a couple of months. Meanwhile, the number of Latino business owners dropped from 2.1 million to 1.4 million (32%) from February to March 2020.
Of course, COVID-19 is not the only challenge facing small and BIPOC-owned businesses as they continue to contend with systemic social and economic injustices, civil and social unrest and more. However, these ongoing inequities have never been more apparent than during the pandemic, including here in our own community.
A recent Black Business Support Collective survey revealed nearly two-thirds of Black-owned Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota businesses are struggling with depressed revenue, while 40% are struggling to pay bills and 21% are in jeopardy of closing completely. Meanwhile, according to a joint study conducted by the Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research public policy group and University of Minnesota Extension, local Latino businesses lost more than $2.1 million due to the pandemic, with 22% of respondents stating if current economic conditions continued another six months, they would have to close.
For their small businesses to survive over the coming years, BIPOC business owners will need to continue to rely on their skills, creativity, resources and capacities to stay viable and thrive. But eventual survival should not be dependent on their abilities alone.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. When they fail, the entire country feels the effects: skyrocketing unemployment rates, reduced consumer spending, less optimistic long-term forecasts for all businesses and more. But, when they succeed, we all succeed.
That’s why companies with the available resources should play a role in supporting these small and minority-owned businesses — and why Comcast created a brand new program last October called Comcast RISE to help these businesses address a variety of challenges and find long-term success.
The first wave of Comcast RISE — which stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment” — granted marketing, creative, media and technology services to small businesses owned by underrepresented groups. More than 700 Black-owned small businesses across the country have received support to date, including The Creative Studio in St. Paul, and The Zen Bin in Minneapolis. I’m pleased to announce that eligible BIPOC-owned small businesses can apply for the next wave of the program now through May 7.
Eligible businesses include those at least 51% BIPOC owned; premise-based independently owned and operated; registered as a business in the U.S.; in operation for more than a year; and, located within Comcast’s Twin Cities service area. Businesses can apply directly online at www.comcastrise.com/apply/.
We encourage and invite all area BIPOC businesses to take advantage of this opportunity. We know the past year has been challenging, traumatic and tragic for so many in our community, and 2021 will no doubt bring its own set of issues. And, although we can’t directly address all the complex, systemic issues BIPOC-owned businesses are facing, we are fully committed to helping drive change and support the long process of ensuring equity, diversity and inclusion.
Through Comcast RISE, we hope to create sustainable impact and meaningful support for the small businesses shaping our communities. After all, at the end of the day, it’s about doing the right thing.
For more information or to apply for the program, visit www.comcastrise.com/apply.