In 2009, President Obama gave a rare shout-out to New Jersey-based social entrepreneur Alfa Demmellash, founder of Rising Tide Capital in Hoboken. Rising Tide Capital serves small business owners and people considering starting a business by providing start-up and business building workshops, and access to financial support. Professionals like you can volunteer for opportunities to support entrepreneurs completing Rising Tide’s programs. The majority of Rising Tide Capital’s clients are women, of color, and single mothers.
I consider it especially important advocate responsible business practices and social impact among minority entrepreneurs. I had an opportunity to do just that as a volunteer coach Rising Tide Capital’s Business Plan Tutorial night on May 16, 2012 in Hoboken, NJ. I was able to work directly with two smart women working to bring their ideas to life. While discussing their business summaries, I found opportunities to encourage them both to more deeply consider the positive impacts they could have on the world around. They each possess the seeds of intent to act in responsible ways that can help build a new, more economy.
One woman plans to launch a local hotdog and shish kabob stand in the downtown Hoboken area, using fresh, local ingredients to make her special recipe toppings. Imagine, a locally sourced shish kabob sauce, that you can only get fresh from Tanya’s soon to come food truck. Pass the recycled napkin, please.
I connected with one other local entrepreneur who will be launching an event planning company, while working with unemployed youth she interacts with through her church ministry. She evokes the myth of the “accidental social entrepreneur”. She hadn’t yet considered talking about her youth work in her business plan. She was called to work with youth to implement her business, but hadn’t realized that others (including clients and investors) would be happy to hear her intent.
That sort of social impact on youth development is precisely what’s needed from responsible entrepreneurs most today.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 46% of African American youth in the job market were unemployed in August 2011, compared to a national 2011 average of 24% of American youth unemployed. That’s a considerable leap in black youth unemployment at 33.4% in 2010.
Young people need access to job-based mentoring to gain the skills necessary to overcome the prejudice and profiling they could face as they mature in the workforce. Business owners and managers willing to employ these vulnerable youth can provide the training and network that can help them succeed.
Entrepreneurship offers a personal path to fulfillment, pride, and livelihood to those communities worst hit by foreclosures and job loss. People of color, Black and Latino in particular have been weathering the worst of the economic recession. Black unemployment rates of 13% in April 2012 remain the highest among ethnicities, followed by Latinos at 10% unemployment.
(While Asian Americans see the lowest unemployment rate at 5% versus White Americans experiencing 7.4% unemployment, there are undoubtedly pockets of Asian-American communities experiencing economic marginalization at disproportionate rates).
Now is the time to activate the wisdom in these communities by helping create self-employment and cooperative ownership opportunities. Minority entrepreneurs can serve as valuable mentors and employers. They deserve serious support in achieving sustainable livelihoods, job creation, and expanding responsible markets.