Survive, Adapt, Transform | Aiding Minority Businesses Through COVID-19

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Youngstown Business Incubator has worked to assist businesses in adapting to the changing business environment – particularly minority businesses.

Businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans face certain challenges without a pandemic, particularly when it comes to building a business plan and finding capital to launch a business, says Vernard Richberg, business counselor with the YBI’s Minority Business Assistance Center.

The outbreak of COVID-19, the disease spread by the coronavirus, amplified those challenges, he says. Counselors at the center learned that many minority businesses had difficulty accessing aid through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program because when banks chose who received the funds, they “went to those businesses that they did business with,” Richberg says.

“I don’t think it was any fault of any bank. They went to who they knew,” he says. “So for a lot of minority- and women-owned and veteran-owned businesses, not having those very intense banking relationships caused them to be a little bit late to applying.”

Not having the needed structural financial tools at hand made it difficult for those businesses to rapidly gain access to balance sheets, income statements and cash flow numbers needed to apply for aid, Richberg says. It was particularly difficult for businesses that rely on cash, he added.

“Those were the kind of inhibitors that really caused minority businesses to be set back,” he says.

At the center, Richberg works closely with micro to small business enterprises in raising capital, but also connecting procurement opportunities, he says. Much of what he does involves businesses owned by women, including women of color. Owners range in age from early to late 30s up to early 50s, and make up 60% to 65% of the center’s client base, he says.

Richberg thanked the efforts of the state and Gov. Mike DeWine, who he says worked with the minority-business community in accessing funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Ohio is one of 19 states that has money from the CARES Act set aside for minority businesses, and underwrites bonding a surety for minority-owned businesses, he says.

To hear more about how the YBI’s Minority Business Assistance Center can help minority-business owners and how the coronavirus has created opportunity for all entrepreneurs, watch the fifth installment of “Survive, Adapt, Transform” above. The “Survive, Adapt, Transform” video series is made possible by a sponsorship from First National Bank of Pennsylvania.

Watch the rest of the “Survive, Adapt, Transform” video series!

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Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.