Joseph T. Rouzan III, president and CEO of the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (VSEDC.), is on a mission to increase entrepreneurship in the Black community.
He said entrepreneurship is important because businesses created in the community end up employing local people. Also, African-Americans don’t have to “beg for jobs,” he said.
Also, the increasing price of college and the changing face of the booming technology sector mean that entrepreneurship is becoming more attractive. However, realizing that African-American entrepreneurs still struggle with funding, Rouzan and VSEDC are trying to ease their path.
VSEDC recently received designation as a Community Development Financial Institution. This status now allows VSEDC to work closely with banks to help local entrepreneurs get funding. The corporation can also provide microloans to local entrepreneurs. Rouzan said the corporation uses its expertise to increase the chances of securing a loan.
“We know the lenders who will work with a restaurant or a beauty salon,” he said. “Half the battle is aligning with the right match.”
Rouzan added that VSEDC also comes up with strategies to help African-American entrepreneurs get over the issue of low credit scores.
Founded in 1981, VSEDC has been working on economic development in the community for several decades. Rouzan, who joined the corporation after working in small business development for the city of Los Angeles, said the corporation currently owns two shopping centers and a light-industrial manufacturing company.
But the corporation is adapting to meet the demands of a changing economy. VSEDC currently funds programs that teach local high school students how to code, which is a high-demand skill in the new economy.
Rouzan said training these students in coding can enable them to walk right out of high school and into a good-paying job. These are jobs that don’t require a college education.
“They can walk out of here without a degree and make six figures,” said Rouzan. “There are multiple pathways to success and we’re here to help the community explore their options.”
But he added these programs are often not provided in high schools.
VSEDC is also working with Comerica bank to provide more business training. Comerica bank provided the corporation with a $25,000 grant to fund a business training center that will provide training in technology and entertainment and offer small business services.
“South Los Angeles is home to some of the most innovative minds in the country. We look forward to enhancing the services that we provide to help aspiring entrepreneurs, “ Rouzan said ”.