Capacity-Building-Perspective

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Jim Lowry

Having worked with minority business owners for more than 40 years, I am often asked about the fate of minority business enterprises in the U.S. As a community of business owners, we have made progress; however, our future depends on our work today and whether or not we are able to build business capacity. Between 1987 and 2007, the number of minority-owned firms grew at more than twice the national rate. Additionally, many of these firms have achieved significant growth over the years. However, a disproportionate number of these businesses lack size, and after reviewing the disparities between most minority and nonminority households, one can see the necessity of continued, accelerated growth.

Capacity-building is essential to the success of MBEs and minorities in the U.S. Many MBEs know that capital and contracts are the fastest means of growth, and the frustrated majority know these methods are not easily obtained. I often listen to entrepreneurs who discuss their business plans and quality products and services. Too often they lament their frustrations about banks and corporations denying them what they need to grow. Unfortunately, I seldom hear them working toward solutions for growth, such as joint ventures and strategic partnerships. In my 40 years, I have realized strategic partnerships are the fastest way to achieve growth.

By leveraging strategic partnerships, small and medium-sized businesses can work like large businesses, offering competitively priced products and services with scalability. More business owners achieve greater access to contracts and, consequently, capital. If more business owners met together, planned together and shared resources, concepts, and personnel, there is no doubt a greater number of minority entrepreneurs would achieve even more accelerated growth rates. As a community, we have a lot to learn from entrepreneurs such as Dr. Randall Pinkett, Dr. William Pickard, John Carter and John Rogers who have demonstrated the possible successes achieved from strategic partnerships. Unfortunately, these entrepreneurs are the exception to the rule, and we need more to follow in their footsteps.

We have a long road ahead before minorities, as a whole, close the disparity gaps, but I am confident we will continue to make progress. However, how we work together as a collective will determine when we achieve parity. As for the fate of minority business enterprises, it depends on what they do to build capacity.

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