Three years after the COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival, small businesses and nonprofits across the state continue to be disproportionately impacted.
Although public resources have been available to local businesses, those in underserved communities typically have more difficulty accessing these opportunities.
Seeing as minority-owned and led organizations faced a variety of challenges before the pandemic, accessible resources have become more crucial than ever.
In CT, Hispanics make up 15.6 percent of the state’s workforce but only nine percent owned businesses, according to a 2021 report by the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy.
Associate Lending Manager of the National Development Council Jovanna Mejia was this month’s guest on the Latino News Network podcast, “3 Questions With…”, to speak on specific barriers minority entrepreneurs face and unique resources available to them.
The National Development Council is a national nonprofit that has served all 50 states for over 50 years. The NDC works with local and state governments along with community-based organizations to direct capital that will support their local communities in a variety of ways.
Local entrepreneurs have shared their concerns and struggles with Mejia, emphasizing economic barriers, limited opportunities for further skill development, and employee retention rates.
“Many business owners find it difficult to participate in training and educational opportunities,” Mejia has learned. “However, these opportunities…could help the entrepreneurship gap and increase small business prosperity and employment opportunities.”
The educational level of business owners tends to correlate with business success, Mejia pointed out.
On employee retention rates, Mejia explained that because of the abundance of jobs, employees now sort of have their pickings and many may think that the grass is greener at another job.
“So, this makes it very difficult for recruitment and retention for any business – yet alone a small business,” she said. “Small businesses already specifically struggle to match the benefits and pay that larger companies provide.”
On the other hand, small businesses offer benefits that larger companies do not. Mejia said this includes flexible work schedules, a family culture, mentorship, loyalty, and the willingness to try new things and be innovative.
The CT Small Business Boost Fund is a loan program that was launched in June, with the NDC as a participating lender, to specifically support minority entrepreneurs.
The loan program “offers flexible credit parameters — so, a lower cash flow requirement and no collateral requirement [so that] historically underserved businesses can gain access to capital when otherwise they would not be able to do so,” Mejia explained. “This is critical as it helps to tear down historical barriers and allows businesses to build capacity over time.”
She emphasized that approved applicants are matched with a knowledgeable lender who will get to know them and their organization, and guide them through the application and approval process.
“This process should allow business owners, especially minority business owners, to not only gain a loan approval but also understand a loan application process for the next time they apply for a loan through either a CDFI or a bank,” she said.
“The Connecticut economy can’t thrive without the good services and job opportunities provided by our small businesses and nonprofits,” Mejia said.
Publisher’s Notes: CT Latino News covers the social determinants of health—among the state’s diverse Hispanic-Latino populations. Economic stability and housing security are essential to one’s life and well-being.
CT Latino News is a partner of the CT Small Business Boost Fund in supporting the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities.