Beyond the inability to access sufficient capital, many Black-owned businesses perish due to lack of knowledge on how to position the company for long-term success.

Although Black people represent 12.8% of the U.S. population, just 2.4% of U.S. businesses have Black owners.  Conversely, White people account for 72.0% of the U.S. population, yet 86.5% of U.S. businesses have white owners.  

In Los Angeles, the statistics are equally as dire. The Black population in Los Angeles is almost 7%, whereas the Black business community in Los Angeles is 2.3%.

Since 2005, the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce’s (GLAAACC) Business Evolution Program (BEP) has equipped Black business owners with the tools to increase their capacity and achieve lasting viability. Through the nine-month program, entrepreneurs learn to increase revenues, enable expansion, create job opportunities and become a part of the monetary engine that keeps the U.S. economy moving in the right direction.

“Black business owners don’t need a handout, but they do need those critical connections you make when networking in person, which were sorely missing during the pandemic shutdown” said GLAAACC Chairman Gene Hale. “BEP classes are designed to provide businesses with a leg-up on the competition.  Whatever it is they need, BEP is here to help take their businesses to the next level.” 

BEP originally started as a means to grow the pipeline for the next generation of African-American entrepreneurs. For 15 years, GLAAACC’s BEP Committee selected one promising business owner to mentor for a year. 

When the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March 2020, GLAAACC made the decision to expand the mentorship program from one to 13 small business owners. In 2021, the program’s enrollment nearly doubled with a record 25 entrepreneurs registered.

BEP’s rigorous curriculum includes modules on contracting, procurement, supplier diversity, lending and professional business services, technical assistance, technology and access to capital. Each month a subject matter expert will introduce BEP mentees to a different aspect of entrepreneurship. 

Participants also come away with an understanding of the importance of leadership in operating a business, developing a capability statement, having access to capital and learning how to build a robust back-office structure. A business coach will be available throughout the course at all times to mentor, provide support and ensure understanding of the information.

Applications for the BEP class of 2022 are currently being accepted and the deadline is Sept. 9. Underwritten by T-Mobile, Wells Fargo and other corporate sponsors, BEP is free to participants.

“At Wells Fargo, we take supporting small businesses very seriously.  We are proud to sponsor GLAAACC’s Business Evolution Program,” says Jack Olree, vice president at Wells Fargo. “It further demonstrates our commitment to the African-American community and to advancing diversity and inclusion.” 

For more details and apply for the BEP 2022/2023 cohort, visit https://www.glaaacc.org/programs/business-evolution-program/.  

Our Weekly coverage of local news in Los Angeles County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.

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