Chamber announces $1.5 million plan to boost BIPOC-owned companies

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When Danielle Davis launched her business and set out on her own on what she described as a “rocky, boulder-strewn road,” she saw first-hand the obstacles BIPOC business owners face in the region.

Now, Davis is spearheading a new initiative launched by the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce that will help business owners like her launch and grow their businesses in the region, tackling deep-rooted disparities that could put Black, Indigenous and People of Color entrepreneurs behind.

“These rocks are almost impossible to move on your own,” said Davis, who serves in the chamber’s new position as BIPOC’s chief growth officer. “That’s what gave me the desire and the motivation to want to change the landscape.”

The $1.5 million plan, announced at a press conference on Thursday, will provide no-cost business growth services to BIPOC companies in the capital region at various stages – from helping to create a comprehensive business plan to creating a valuable professional network.

There are more than 760 BIPOC-owned enterprises in the capital region.

“I believe that if BIPOC companies are successful, then our community will be successful,” Davis said. “The initiative is important because if BIPOC companies know how to navigate the space and overcome obstacles, they will actually use it.”

The problem? Many of these companies are unaware that these resources exist.

In Davis’ role, which is one of two created specifically to tackle this project, she proactively reaches out to community members and identifies businesses that may have barriers to growth and makes them knowing that the chamber is a conduit for resources that can help them thrive.

During the unveiling of the project, the leaders of the organizations financing the initiative took the floor: Business for Good, CDPHP and KeyBank Foundation.

“The funding we provide gives the chamber resources to provide training and leadership programs to support our BIPOC business owners within our communities, help them overcome barriers, grow their operations and create new wealth,” said Fran O’Rourke, president of KeyBank’s Capital Region Market. after announcing the foundation’s $500,000 investment in this effort.

An additional goal of the plan is to engage the region’s business sector to implement more diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices. To do this, they will continue to offer workshops covering DEI concepts such as correct terminology, basic business concepts, and reducing unconscious bias. A DEI guide is also in the final phase of production and will be available this fall.

“It means giving people the opportunity to achieve equal outcomes, but really understanding what their barriers are and overcoming them,” said CDPHP President and CEO John Bennett, who sits on the board of directors of CDPHP. bedroom.

Mark Eagan, president and CEO of the Capital Region Chamber, said the plan is part of a larger effort inspired years ago after surveying other urban areas that have successfully incorporated multiculturalism and prosperity in the fabric of their communities.

The organization accelerated its work after the murder of George Floyd and the racial unrest the nation has experienced amid the pandemic. While their previous work focused on diversity and inclusion, Eagan said they realized equity was the key to making a difference in the community.

A university in Alabama in 2021 study found that while a business’ 18-month failure rate is 20%, that number jumps to 80% for black-owned businesses.

“We realize that we don’t need a cookie-cutter approach, we need something that caters to this individual business where they are and provides services to them,” Eagan said.

For Jason Benitez, vice president of the DEI chamber, the initiative is about creating a vision for the region that “embraces diversity, cultivates inclusion, and drives greater equity change.” He sees the work as an ongoing journey that will inspire change throughout the Capital Region.

“We are confident that the Capital Region Chamber, together with our investors and community collaborators, can continue to move the DEI needle for our region,” Benitez said. “As we together embrace our collective journey, we are now laying the foundation for our region’s future prosperity.”

Danielle Davis, Director of BIPOC Business Growth at the Capital Region Chamber, addresses guests at a press conference to launch the Chamber’s new initiative to provide business growth services at no cost to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Owned Businesses in the Capital Region (BIPOC) on Thursday, August 18, 2022, at the offices of the Capital Region Chamber in Colonie, NYWill Waldron/Times Union

Danielle Davis, Director of BIPOC Business Growth at the Capital Region Chamber, addresses guests at a press conference to launch the Chamber's new initiative to provide business growth services at no cost to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Owned Businesses in the Capital Region (BIPOC) on Thursday, August 18, 2022, at the offices of the Capital Region Chamber in Colonie, NY
Danielle Davis, Director of BIPOC Business Growth at the Capital Region Chamber, addresses guests at a press conference to launch the Chamber’s new initiative to provide business growth services at no cost to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Owned Businesses in the Capital Region (BIPOC) on Thursday, August 18, 2022, at the offices of the Capital Region Chamber in Colonie, NYWill Waldron/Times Union

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