Trying to compete as a small business in Gotham is no easy task. Owners have to worry about rising rents, complex regulations and whether a big-box retail store will locate nearby. For small businesses owned by women or people of color, the challenges can be even more daunting.
According to Gregg Bishop, Deputy Commissioner of Business Development for the Department of Small Business Services, MWBEs face extra burdens when it comes to accessing capital, and also struggle with recruiting and retaining talent and with devising a successful marketing strategy.
SBS just completed its fifth round of a nine-month management training program, Strategic Steps for Growth, where it partners with New York University to provide the skills for MWBEs to grow and expand, and eventually hire more New Yorkers. SBS’s training relies on an award-winning curriculum developed by Interise, a Boston-based non-profit that got its start in 2004 when it convened 14 small business owners based in Boston’s lower-income communities. (See our recent interview with Interise’s Tanya Pope, where she explains how MWBEs can win more government contracts.)
Bishop notes that soon SBS will be recruiting a new cohort of MWBEs to begin its sixth year of training. Although Bishop couldn’t provide an estimate of the number of New Yorkers hired by MWBEs who’ve gone through the program, to date over 80 MWBE business owners have graduated from Strategic Steps for Growth; as a result, they’ve secured $130 million in government contracts and $6.4 million in financing.
Question 1: What kinds of barriers do MWBEs face?
Question 2: What is government’s role in helping MWBEs grow?
Question 3: Do NYC programs actually make a difference for MWBEs?