Giving small business founders a circle of support

When Ruby Taylor set out to start her own business, she was on a mission to prevent a staggering prediction.

“I read that by 2053, African Americans’ median net worth will be zero,” she said. While the average white family has approximately $184,000 in family wealth, according to the Federal Reserve Board, a typical Hispanic family owned $38,000 and a typical Black family owned $23,000 in family wealth.

In 2020, Taylor tapped into her own unwavering optimism and passion for teaching to found Financial Joy School, which uses family game nights, card games, an investment calculator and seminars to equip Black families with tools to build generational wealth.

Taylor’s company is one of nearly 13 million women-owned businesses across the U.S. and part of the growth engine powering a stronger, more inclusive economy. According to recent U.S. Census data, women-owned businesses comprise roughly 21 percent of the small business community, with 1.2 million established companies and are on the rise.

As the U.S. strives for economic recovery from the covid-19 pandemic, women are on the leading edge of the country’s economic growth, despite barriers that have historically prevented their businesses from reaching full potential.

“Thinking about all the resources that a business requires sometimes keeps me up at night,” Taylor said. “It is hard for somebody who doesn’t already have their foot in the door.”

Recent efforts from public and private sectors have provided a financial boost to entrepreneurs. But many organizations are seeing the need for more comprehensive support – offering small business owners greater access to expertise and guidance.

“Very early on, we understood that capital alone wasn’t enough to enable small businesses to bounce back from so much economic disruption,” said Mary Mack, CEO of consumer and small business banking at Wells Fargo. “We intentionally carved out $50 million from our philanthropic Open for Business Fund to focus on widening the type, format and locations where entrepreneurs could find experts ready to help grow their businesses.”

Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund is a roughly $420 million national small business recovery effort. It is projected to help nearly 150,000 small businesses and preserve an estimated 250,000 jobs in local communities. Through the Open for Business Fund, Wells Fargo works with community development financial institutions and nonprofits such as Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, an organization that is building a better path for entrepreneurs worldwide to grow inclusion, access and knowledge, and to reach the smallest of small businesses.

“For many small businesses, having access to experts in key areas like marketing, business planning, legal and accounting is the critical turning point to getting back to growth,” said Nicola Corzine, executive director of Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center. “Pairing access to technical expertise with capital has been key to a thriving small business owner. Especially during covid, we saw an opportunity and a deep need to connect more intentionally with amazing women entrepreneurs who are more isolated than ever before and having to make radical decisions to keep their businesses open in an ever-changing landscape.”

To build beyond capital support, Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center tapped Wells Fargo funding to start mentoring and providing peer support to women business owners from predominantly underrepresented communities through Milestone Mapping Coaching Circles. In small groups, women entrepreneurs participate in a 12-week-long coach-guided program, where they receive support with business planning, revenue generation, customer leads, marketing and more, helping founders anchor focus to their biggest vision and gain clarity on the key business priority for next quarter.

Each Circle is open to all women-identifying business owners in the U.S. and provides a biweekly opportunity for women entrepreneurs to work through specific challenges, celebrate milestones, attend workshops and connect with small business experts and mentors. Interested participants complete an application and, upon acceptance, are placed in a Circle and matched to certain cohorts based on their challenges.

“Running a business and navigating life’s realities can be a constant challenge,” Corzine said. “As a nonprofit committed to access and equity in entrepreneurship, we are grateful for this opportunity to help 500 women business owners accelerate their personal growth as leaders. The experience empowers them to solve big problems, making their families and communities stronger, positively impacting the economy and giving us hope for a brighter, bolder tomorrow.”

Taylor’s experience with Milestone Circles strengthened her resolve to succeed. She said she is already implementing new ideas, such as increased social content to engage potential clients.

“As an entrepreneur, you don’t always have the time to sit and reflect on your business. It’s always go, go, go,” said Taylor, a current Milestone Circle participant. “Not only does this program give you that time, but it also includes a support system of amazing women. So far I’ve walked away with concrete marketing and social media strategies to promote more brand awareness for my business.”

And as Taylor and other women entrepreneurs grow, so too does a collective effort to create a more prosperous and inclusive U.S. economy.


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