Jul 16, 2020

9 Resources for Minority-Led Startups

The business world needs a diversity of entrepreneurs, customers, thinkers, and creators, and the benefits of having a more inclusive startup sector are exponential. Therefore, it is a shame that diversity among startup founders remains so stubbornly low, with a recent study finding that more than 75% of venture capital-backed entrepreneurs were white.

Like the small business sphere in general, the startup field is growing more diverse by the day. Fortunately, there is also a growing base of networks and funding opportunities aimed at helping startup founders with minority backgrounds take the world into the 21st Century.

1. Diversity VC

The focus of this nonprofit is right in its name—Diversity VC aims to increase diversity in the startup space via venture funding. One program the partnership offers trains highly-skilled people from diverse backgrounds to become venture capitalists themselves. Diversity VC also hosts events and workshops around the world.

The partnership links diverse founders with capital. It is busy compiling a database of diversity and inclusion resources in the VC space, and it features articles from thought leaders regarding the subject.

2. Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

The United States Department of Commerce has the Minority Business Development Agency, an organization that offers grants with deadlines throughout the year. For startup founders or small business owners with a specific project in mind, this governmental program is great, although the application process is competitive.  

The MBDA has dedicated its Business Centers around the country to help minority startups. Visiting the MBDA in person is the ideal way to see what sort of grants, which can be as much as $300,000, they can offer you. Even better±if you receive an MBDA grant, you can apply for more in the future once your project is completed.

3. AfroTech

AfroTech is an online media platform created to highlight Black innovators in the technology sector and pair them up with resources and networks. Owned by media network Blavity, AfroTech features daily stories on the latest in the tech sphere, plus think pieces, how-to articles, and other information meant to help Black business owners succeed in the historically white tech space.

The company was originally founded as an event in 2016 and continues to have in-person conferences for Black entrepreneurs. By featuring startup founders, companies, and opportunities, it is a useful website to check daily.  

4. Office of Minority Health

If your startup is involved in healthcare for historically disenfranchised communities, there’s a good chance that you are eligible for funding available through grants offered by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Minority Health. OHM offers grants aimed at improving healthcare in minority communities throughout the country. These grants range from $275,000 to $500,000.

The span of DHHS healthcare grants is staggering. Startups concerned with research, treatment, and community outreach should all apply. In recent years, OHM provided funding to lupus awareness efforts alongside small businesses focused on reducing health disparities in the US.

5. AfroBytes

AfroBytes is a marketplace and tech conference company that hosts events worldwide to help connect people from around the globe to the burgeoning tech sector in Africa. The company has events in New York City, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Nairobi, Paris, and elsewhere, bringing venture capitalists, startup founders, academics, and innovators together. 

African consumers are becoming global trendsetters, and the technology market all over the continent is booming. With all the major players from Facebook to Microsoft investing heavily in the African tech landscape, smaller startups have countless opportunities to get involved.

6. Operation Hope

With an emphasis on financial literacy, Operation Hope is geared toward new entrepreneurs looking to start a business in historically low-income communities. The program offers business training and fiscal advisement for startup founders—especially for those embarking on their first business venture. Along with its Small Business Empowerment Program, Operation Hope attempts to connect entrepreneurs with additional funding opportunities down the road.

The heart of the Operation Hope model is a 12-week entrepreneur mentorship program that serves as an intensive business education and illustrates how entrepreneurship can benefit entire communities. Through the training, this program will help new startup founders launch and grow their companies.

7. National Minority Supplier Development Council

This large council is a corporate member organization dedicated to serving startup founders of diverse backgrounds interested in the global supply chain field. The council offers a series of grants and programs every year, including options for very young entrepreneurs. The NMSDC even offers scholarships for students.

The programming has various qualification requirements, and much of it provides solid business training for first-time entrepreneurs. To be eligible for the NMSDC grants, you need to certify your startup as a minority-owned business and register with the council. Beyond funding opportunities, the council offers advising services and can key you into its deep global network.

8. Unshackled Ventures

Unshackled Ventures is for immigrants in the United States who want to launch companies. The firm will hear pitches regardless of an entrepreneur’s current work authorization, so you could be a brand new US citizen or on a student visa. Openness is a key aspect of Unshackled Ventures’ operation–it really wants to hear your startup pitch.

The firm asserts that it tries to replace the “friends and family” investment many early startups require as they get off of the ground. Because new immigrants might not have access to such capital, Unshackled Ventures helps them bridge this gap. 

9. Harlem Capital

Like Unshackled Ventures, Harlem Capital focuses on funding entrepreneurs in the very early stages of a startup. The firm has a desire to change the face of entrepreneurship within the next 2 decades, so it’s specifically interested in startup founders who are women or from minority backgrounds.

Harlem Capital is very transparent in its mission to invest out of a $40 million fund—and it even provides help crafting a pitch that will get your business funded.   

About the author

Barry Eitel
Barry Eitel
Barry Eitel has written about business and technology for eight years, including working as a staff writer for Intuit's Small Business Center and as the Business Editor for the Piedmont Post, a weekly newspaper covering the city of Piedmont, California.

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