The BakerRipley Entrepreneur Connection Program went virtual more than three months ago as it continues to support entrepreneurs during this pandemic.
“We’ve learned a lot since moving remote during COVID-19. While virtual work has its challenges, we now have more time to concentrate on our most impactful work,” said Estella Gonzalez, Director of Education & Economic Opportunity.
Our neighbors often struggle to navigate and persist through complex systems as they try to secure better futures for their families. In Houston, like all over the country, COVID-19 has only made this more evident.
And support for small businesses is crucial to creating pathways of opportunity for people to climb up the socioeconomic ladder.
The Technical assistance aspect
Our teams are regularly finding innovative ways to keep entrepreneurs engaged and connected in this new normal.
“One of the most successful parts has been the Technical Assistance (“coaching”) we’ve been able to provide to businesses while they are struggling to survive,” said Estella.
At first, our teams were concerned about keeping clients engaged virtually, due to our individualized approach to coaching at BakerRipley. However, we noticed even better attendance, realizing that this makes it easier for our busy entrepreneurs to attend.
The mounting challenges
As data shows, Latinx and Black-owned businesses have less access to capital than their white peers. In 2019, the SBA found that 49 percent of loans from banks go to white-owned businesses, while only 7 percent goes to Hispanic-owned businesses and 3 percent to black-owned businesses.
In April, the Center for Responsible Lending warned that roughly 95 percent of black-owned businesses and 91 percent of Latino-owned businesses “stood close to no chance of receiving a PPP loan through a mainstream bank or credit union.”
Furthermore, as the pandemic surged through the summer, data began to show minorities suffering from COVID-19 at disproportional rates.
This was the reality we saw on the ground as we worked with our neighbors who were struggling in dealing with the impacts of COVID.
Access to capital
Although the deck seemed stacked against our neighbors, who are more than 90% Hispanic or Black, we knew we had to do something.
“Our program staff quickly became focused on helping our entrepreneurs access the capital they desperately needed,” added Estella.
In turn, our entrepreneurs have been able to access capital at a tremendous rate. In fact, we’ve seen a huge growth in the amount of capital accessed by our clients since the pandemic began.
For comparison, in all of 2019, our clients were able to access $33,900 in loans. Through June 30th of this year, our clients have accessed $554,600 – that’s 16 times more.
Navigating complex systems
In March, literally overnight, a number of online resources for entrepreneurs starting popping up. It was overwhelming and confusing for everyone, especially for our entrepreneurs. They didn’t know where to go for the most updated or correct information.
However, because of our relationship with entrepreneurs, they knew who to call. Our coaches became experts in navigating the sea of websites and COVID-19 emergency aid (including the CARES Act) information.
BakerRipley received calls from entrepreneurs (both current clients and new entrepreneurs) that needed our help. And we connected them to accurate information, in both English and Spanish.
This fall we will have all of our Academy classes online and our team is reimagining what our annual pitch competition Lanzate will look like.
In addition, our Food Industry Recovery Program pilot series in English will launch in September. The pilot with Hope Clinic has been very successful in supporting food industry entrepreneurs in Spanish. Now, we are excited to offer it in English.
Stay tuned for updates on all things small business via Facebook.