Here's how you can support Minnesota's minority-owned businesses

A person stands behind a collection of products on a display table.
Artist Candida Gonzalez of Las Ranas Jewelry sells their art at the Black & Indigenous & Brown Makers Market at La Doña Cerveceria in Minneapolis in August. In Minnesota, there are a number of ways to support vendors and business owners of color, and here's what you can do as a consumer and ally.
Jon Collins | MPR News file

Updated: Dec. 16 | Posted: Dec. 13

The past two years have been hard on everyone, but for many businesses, especially those run by entrepreneurs of color, the pandemic and the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd put a major threat to their economic health and livelihood.

A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research from last year shows that business owners of color were disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — from February 2020 to April 2020, more than 40 percent of Black business owners in the United States shut down operations, a significantly higher rate compared to 17 percent of white owners and the national average of 22 percent.

Other racial minority groups also experienced sharp declines with 1 in 3 Latino/Latina-owned businesses closing and 1 in 4 Asian-owned businesses shut in the two-month period.

On top of that, many small business owners in the Twin Cities and across the state were hard hit by the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, and are still recovering from the damages over a year later. To help them offset the losses and as part of the ongoing racial reckoning across the U.S., a number of large corporations and politicians promised support for business owners of color, but only a fraction of the pledges have been fulfilled.

As businesses struggle to stay afloat in this second holiday season of COVID-19, what can you do to support entrepreneurs of color and foster a more inclusive local economy? Beyond a one-time purchase or donation, here’s a list of things you can do now to help them.

Shop local, shop diverse

In the wake of Floyd’s murder and the subsequent racial reckoning, a handful of local and national organizations have come together to encourage consumers to shop at businesses that are run by people from traditionally marginalized communities.

If you’re looking for where to shop to support those communities in your area, here are some useful resources to help you locate BIPOC-owned businesses — from restaurants and bakeries to various professional services.

Connect to the community, be an ally

In addition to financial support for BIPOC businesses through donations and purchases, there are initiatives that focus on empowering entrepreneurship in communities of color by raising awareness and promoting allyship.

  • Black Business Enterprises, founded by CEO Nancy Korsah, aims to foster Black economics and help the Black communities in Minnesota and across the U.S. thrive. The organization facilitates community conversations on various social media, including its Facebook/Instagram pages and a Minnesota-focused Facebook group, where experts and members of the business community share advice for successful entrepreneurship and words about events and stores run by Black business owners. Black Business Enterprises also produces an occasional podcast series, available on its social media pages, where they introduce Black-owned businesses, their achievements and other industry news for entrepreneurs and consumers from all communities.

  • Minnesota Business Coalition For Racial Equity: The coalition consists of more than 80 business owners and industry leaders across the state who share the goal of empowering Black Minnesotans and fostering a more inclusive economy in Minnesota. They have developed a toolkit where anyone can learn how to be an ally of BIPOC entrepreneurs and what actions they can take to pursue racial equity in the business sector.

  • Black Business Is Beautiful: Once every month, you can shop and engage with Black vendors and vendors of color at The Black Business Is Beautiful, a marketplace for BIPOC business owners in St. Paul. Information on the upcoming popup market events and other community conversations can be found on its website or its Facebook page.

Grants, initiatives for BIPOC business owners

If you are a business owner of color or know someone in the BIPOC business community, these grants and initiatives might help the business recover from the losses during the pandemic and thrive.

  • Minority Entrepreneur Initiative: MN Cup, a program at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, supports BIPOC entrepreneurs, inventors, small businesses and startup companies in the state through mentoring and sponsorship. Its Minority Entrepreneur Initiative is established to address racial disparities and challenges that entrepreneurs of color in Minnesota face. More information on business consulting, financial assistance and other opportunities from the initiative can be found here.

  • Comcast RISE: The funding is focused on small businesses owned by people of color, and in November it announced 100 Twin Cities businesses to receive its $10,000 grants under the program. Applications are now open for another grant opportunity for businesses in marketing and technology industries, and the last date to apply is Jan. 15, 2022.

  • Black Business Enterprises grants: The organization provides funding for minority-owned small businesses through its quarterly grant program. Applicants should be its member or registered on its business directory, and have conducted business at least for three months. A majority of the business must be owned and operated by people of color.

We want to hear from you

Do you know other efforts going on in Minnesota to support entrepreneurs of color? What other forms of support do you want to see to effect a more inclusive and sustainable local economy? Let us know in the form below.

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