SOLANO COUNTY – It is estimated that in February 2020, a month before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the local economy, over 1 million Black-owned businesses were operating in the United States.
By mid-April of 2020, over 40 percent of those businesses – 440,000 – had closed their doors for good.
COVID has impacted all segments of the economy but especially hard hit has been the Black community. To help business owners and entrepreneurs rebuild, the Northern California Small Business Development Center has launched the Inclusivity Project.
The NorCal SBDC network, which includes the Solano-Napa SBDC, hopes the Inclusivity Project will shine a light on the needs of Black entrepreneurs and provide a safety net that can help them preserve their existing businesses or start a new enterprise in Northern California.
Expert advising and training opportunities are among the resources available at no-cost through this program, as well as a capital component that aims to secure $100 million in funding for 1,000 Black-owned businesses.
“A project of this magnitude is important at any time but in light of COVID and its impact on our businesses, it’s even more vital now,” said Solano-Napa SBDC Director Tim Murrill. “We are one of the most diverse counties in the country and our Black-owned businesses have been hit hard.”
Solano County business owners who sign up for the Inclusivity Project will be paired with Solano-Napa SBDC Advisor Cynthia Cowart. She is the Solano-Napa SBDC’s liaison with the Solano Black Chamber of Commerce and has over 25 years of professional business experience. She specializes in business planning.
She believes connecting Inclusivity Project clients with Black business advisors will help them to open up and have deeper conversations about their businesses and lives.
“You want to have a degree of comfort and trust with who you are speaking with and what better way to build that bond than to speak with someone who has a similar background as you do,” she said. “Recovery is definitely key right now. Hopefully, this project will offer the assistance, the guidance, the mentorship that business owners need to succeed.”
You can learn more and register for the Inclusivity Project at theinclusivityproject.com
Any existing business or start-up with less than 500 employees can utilize the SBDC’s free individualized and confidential advising services. In Solano County, over 99 percent of businesses would qualify. Business advisors are experienced in a variety of areas, including lending, business plans, marketing, sales, strategy, leadership, restaurant operations, human resources, retail, and product pricing.
Learn more and apply to be a business client at www.solanonapasbdc.org.