Despite the fact that research shows 85% of a company’s customers live within a five-mile radius of their location, small businesses — and especially those owned by women or minorities — sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Now, a generous grant from JPMorgan Chase may help change the game for Atlanta entrepreneurs.
The Ascend 2020 program was started last year to grow minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned businesses specializing in marketing, finances, technology, and business management in major urban centers all across the country. The program bestowed this year’s $400,000 grant to the Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center to provide funds to existing minority-and-women-owned tech firms in need of expansion capital, as well as for brand new businesses that fall under the same umbrella.
To further grow women-and-minority-owned tech businesses in the Atlanta area, Morehouse College is partnering with TechSquare Labs, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech.
Morehouse College Interim President Bill Taggart told Atlanta Daily World that these partnerships will provide a huge opportunity for young entrepreneurs who want to start their own tech businesses and will provide the tools and resources they need to do it.
“This partnership could increase economic development in communities in the shadows of Morehouse College,” said Taggart. “It gives entrepreneurs access to some of our most talented professors and a team of experts working in the tech industry. We thank JPMorgan Chase for their investment in Morehouse and the minority business community.”
Tiffany Bussey, director of the Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center, echoed Taggart’s sentiments.
“Morehouse is very excited about the potential of this partnership, which allows the College to extend our reach and support to minority entrepreneurs here in Atlanta. These engagements afford us the opportunity to build upon our leadership in decreasing the income inequality gap in our communities.”
Studies have found that minority-owned and women-owned businesses rely more on personal or family investments than on outside equity. In fact, only 2% of African American-owned businesses in the U.S. received SBA loans, and only 16% of conventional small business loans were given to female entrepreneurs in 2013.
JPMorgan Chase has made an effort to give to small local businesses, especially to those in the metro Atlanta area. And in the past six months, the company has given more than $4.6 million to nonprofit organizations that support small business growth in Atlanta.
Rey Curva, head to Chase Business Banking in Atlanta, told Atlanta Daily World, “Connecting underrepresented small businesses with the resources and capital they need to grow is not only good for the economic health of the community, it’s also good business.”
JPChase Morgan isn’t the only lender trying to give back to small, minority-owned businesses. Wells Fargo is currently running a contest to invest in black businesses and, consequently, local communities.
The bank recently launched its “Wells Fargo Works for Small Business: Neighborhood Renovation Program” contest, where small, black-owned businesses in five American cities can win physical renovations for their businesses. One grand prize winner in each city will receive up to $25,000 to improve the interior and/or exterior appearance of their location; three finalists in each city will win $10,000 for these efforts.
According to the 2012 U.S. Census, the Atlanta metro area had more African American-owned firms than any other metro area outside of New York City. These contest winnings could make a huge difference in how these businesses grow and are perceived.
The same could be said for Wells Fargo, however. The bank has struggled in recent years to reclaim its image, and its focus on helping minority-owned businesses could be a good public relations move. But that’s not to say that winning wouldn’t be a real coup for Atlanta businesses.
The program was created to boost economic development in neighborhoods across the nation, but this year’s contest is limited to businesses in specific areas in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Minneapolis. Their contest runs through May 31.
While many would argue much more needs to be done to ensure minority- and women-owned businesses can thrive, at least these lenders are making the attempt to step up.