To mark National Entrepreneurs’ Day on November 16th, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) kicked off the next phase of its work to amplify the voices of BIPOC entrepreneurs and build an inclusive and equitable entrepreneurship eco-system in the Greater Philadelphia region.
This included the launch of Built By Philly and the announcement of a $750,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase to implement community-informed solutions aimed at building a more inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem for BIPOC-owned businesses in Philadelphia.
Built By Philly is one of the outcomes of the May 2021 Philadelphia Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Assessment which highlighted that, while Black and Latinx Philadelphians account for 44% and 17% of the city’s population, they only own 5% and 4% of all small employer businesses, respectively. Historically, due to lack of access to capital, key resources and market opportunities, these populations have experienced systemic barriers that have prevented them from starting, growing and scaling independently owned businesses in the Greater Philadelphia region.
“The study brought to light truths about the challenges faced by people of color in owning and maintaining small businesses,” said Michael Banks, Managing Director of Employment, Opportunity & Entrepreneurship of UWGPSNJ. “Small businesses play a critical role in helping shape and grow our local economy. If we want to build our city, we need to close the racial wealth gap and present equitable avenues for economic opportunity. This assessment gave us clear direction and specific action items in addressing these challenges and inequities—and implementation begins now.”
At a virtual event held at IF Lab today, Banks was joined by James Johnson-Piett, Principal and CEO of Urbane, Jennifer Rodriguez, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Tayyib Smith, serial entrepreneur and Principal of Meta Global, to unveil the Built by Philly microsite. The site features BIPOC entrepreneurs from diverse industries, growth stages, and Philadelphia neighborhoods sharing the challenges they face and their ideas for a stronger ecosystem. These voices will continue to directly inform the action steps of the Built by Philly initiative. The Built by Philly microsite will evolve into a comprehensive online tool - the first step in a thirteen-step action plan - that connects BIPOC business owners to capital, education, resources and networking opportunities.
“Built By Philly sets out to build a more equitable small business ecosystem with business owners themselves,” said Johnson-Piett. “By highlighting some of the stories and ideas that drive the initiative, this new site takes a concrete step to center entrepreneurs in the ongoing work. The online space will become a place for collaboration and networking as well as resource connections, carving out continued opportunities for business owners to have a strong voice in the initiatives that will benefit them.”
The event also included the announcement of a $750,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase. Building upon input, recommendations and solutions by a coalition of local entrepreneurs, funders, small business stakeholders, industry leaders, and city officials, JPMorgan Chase’s investment will go towards closing gaps and implementing solutions within Philadelphia’s entrepreneurship ecosystem in four key areas:
- Access to Capital
- Market Opportunities
- Trusted Guidance
- Ecosystem Infrastructure
“This investment in BIPOC entrepreneurship in Philadelphia is a testament both to the crucial needs of entrepreneurs of color and JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to racial equity,” said Stephen Wright, Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase. “Built By Philly is directly aligned with our mission to invest in the communities we serve, and break down barriers to opportunity and create an economy that works for all people.”
The Philadelphia Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Assessment is the work of a team of professionals from Next Street, Urbane, Econsult Solutions, Inc., and SourceLink. Supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the team analyzed more than 20 public and private datasets, engaged with over 200 local small business owners and stakeholders, and interviewed a dozen national experts from peer American cities. To root this initiative around community engagement, the team also convened an Advisory Council of 31 local stakeholders, including small business owners and entrepreneurs, capital and service providers, anchor and philanthropic institutions, and city government officials.
With this investment by JPMorgan Chase, the coalition behind Built by Philly will leverage the findings of the Assessment and collaborate on initiatives and solutions to make Philadelphia a national leader in equitable small business development. Built by Philly will focus on creating new avenues for entrepreneurs to start, sustain, and scale their businesses. Collaborative funding strategies are also being pursued to amplify the implementation of these solutions.
“Investment in the small business infrastructure – organizations supporting small businesses, marketing, technology, and coordination platforms – will enable BIPOC small business owners to grow,” said Charisse Conanan Johnson, Managing Partner at Next Street. “This investment is critical to the future of Philadelphia. Unlocking the growth potential in BIPOC entrepreneurs spurs net new jobs, closes the racial wealth gap, and brings forth innovative solutions for all people to benefit.”
In collaboration with expert partners, UWGPSNJ will serve as the lead organization to coordinate partnerships, coalition engagement, and investments.“It’s clear that Philadelphia faces racial and social inequities that are undermining our city’s economic vitality,” said Banks. “We’re building an inclusive approach to support community and individual wealth and present equitable avenues to economic opportunity and entrepreneurship.”
To learn more about Built By Philly and the solutions to level the playing field for BIPOC entrepreneurs, visit builtbyphilly.org.