As the country continues working to address the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice, we’re seeing more efforts to expand opportunity and equity for new and small business owners across the country. Yet even where progress has been made, the need for systems-level change — from Capitol Hill to town halls — remains.
Start Us Up was launched to bring greater visibility to the incredible work being done to support entrepreneurs, so that past and ongoing efforts can inform what comes next.
Right to Start Legislation Passes in Missouri
On May 4, the Missouri House of Representatives passed the Right to Start Act, a bill inspired and driven by the efforts of Right to Start. The legislation includes a broad array of steps, which Right to Start founder and CEO Victory Hwang described collectively as “the most comprehensive pro-entrepreneur state legislation proposed in memory… maybe ever.” Among the items included in the bill: dedicating 5% of government contracts to small new businesses, banning non-compete restrictions, lowering taxes for new businesses, and creating an official state Office of Entrepreneurship.
Helping Women- and Minority-Owned Small and New Businesses
While the number of female and business owners of color is growing across the country, we still need to do more to help them obtain the same access to capital as white male entrepreneurs, writes Dara Macan, director of partnerships and engagement with SourceLink. Citing research that shows that women obtained only 2.8% of venture capital funds in 2019, Macan notes the importance of helping entrepreneurs from all walks of life. “If we are to create entrepreneurial ecosystems that nurture entrepreneurs of all colors and races, we must begin by addressing the systemic issues in play that prevent these business owners from accessing vital resources, capital, mentoring, networking, and education,” she writes.
Increasing Broadband Access Would Level the Playing Field
In order for new and small businesses to grow, they need access to fast, reliable internet, says Mark Herbert, managing director of the California chapter of Small Business Majority. In a recent op-ed, Herbert emphasizes the importance of internet connectivity. He writes: “After all, a business owner can’t successfully sustain their business in our virtual economy if they don’t have reliable access to the internet. Expanding broadband would support current and aspiring small-business owners, particularly those in rural and underserved communities, to continue their innovation and activity in an online marketplace.”
Sign up for Webinar on Boosting Entrepreneurs
Forward Cities is sponsoring several webinars to help new and small business owners assess the health and equity of their ecosystems. The second event in the series, which features entrepreneurial experts Shervonne Cherry and Enoch Elwell, will be held on May 12 at 1 p.m. EST. Titled “E3 Scorecard: How Programs Power Entrepreneurial Ecosystems,” the discussion will center on four critical dimensions — people, programs, networks, and narratives — and the ways they can provide insight into local ecosystems by helping to develop clear pathways to growth.