Segun Idowu, govt director of the Black Financial Council of Massachusetts, raised $1.5 million to develop his group’s
capability to assist Black-owned companies. BANNER FILE PHOTO
Again in June, Boston was rising from months of lockdown that noticed joblessness rise and companies shut. All of the whereas, weekly protests over police shootings helped drive a wide-ranging public dialogue of racial inequities in Boston and throughout the nation.
Amid these turbulent weeks of mid-2020, Segun Idowu had an thought.
As govt director of the Black Financial Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), he had been working feverishly to safe extra assets for struggling black-owned companies within the state, a lot of which had been disregarded of aid efforts such because the federal Payroll Safety Program.
It was then that BECMA launched its Greenwood Problem, geared toward elevating $1 million to assist black-owned companies within the state not solely survive a troublesome time, however develop. The identify was taken from the Black enterprise district in Tulsa, Oklahoma that white Tulsans attacked and burned to the bottom in 1921.
The thought got here as Idowu was talking with entrepreneur Herby Duverne, whose safety consulting agency Windwalker Group has grown and thrived regardless of the tight financial occasions. Duverne provided BECMA a $100,000 donation to assist it develop. Idowu determined he would search a grant to match Duverne’s donation.
“We knew we would have liked to be formidable, given the second,” Idowu mentioned in a Banner interview. “We’ve solely been round 5 years. It’s not like we had a big endowment we may draw from.”
Quickly got here donations from the Barr Basis ($300,000), the Boston Basis ($200,000), Japanese Financial institution ($100,000) and the Shlomo Fund ($100,000). By Nov. 30, BECMA had raised $1.5 million. The success stunned even Idowu, who isn’t one to draw back from challenges.
“We thought it was very formidable even to hit $1 million,” he mentioned. “Up till the donation we acquired from Herby, the biggest donation we ever had acquired was $50,000, from the Boston Basis.”
Apart from supporting small companies immediately, the funding will enable BECMA to extend its personal capability. Presently, Idowu is the nonprofit’s sole worker. With new hires, Idowu plans to broaden the group’s work in Boston and in different areas of the state the place Black enterprise homeowners face challenges particular to their space. To raised attain companies throughout the state, BECMA will set up regional chapters, Idowu mentioned.
“It will assist the group extra successfully advocate for its members,” he mentioned. “The problems of concern to companies in Worcester are very totally different from these of concern to companies in Springfield and Boston.”
Nearly all of the funds raised, although, will help BECMA’s work offering technical help to small companies as they navigate pandemic economics.
“We need to assist small companies with their back-office operations,” Idowu mentioned.
One factor the pandemic made painfully clear was how underprepared many Black-owned companies had been to obtain assist from federal, state and native authorities. Lack of correct bookkeeping protocols and crucial certifications prevented many small companies from accessing Fee Safety Program loans and different types of help.
“We had been blocked out,” Idowu mentioned, “as a result of we didn’t have relationships with banks.”
Through the pandemic, companies that didn’t have the right authorized standing or that paid workers off the books had been at a drawback. Even in good occasions, nonetheless, those self same limitations forestall companies from accessing authorities contracts and the financing they should develop their companies.
“We need to make it possible for companies have all their affairs so as in order that they’ve entry to capital and contracts,” Idowu mentioned.
BECMA will even start a procurement program, Idowu mentioned, that may operate as a type of matchmaker to assist company companions procure companies from native Black companies.
“We’ll match folks that need to develop their companies with companies that need to broaden their minority contracting,” he mentioned.
Now 5 years outdated, BECMA has taken on new board members, a few of whom characterize areas exterior of better Boston. The brand new board members embody enterprise homeowners from Randolph, Worcester and Springfield.
“It’s vital to me that we now have voices from all industries in all corners of the state,” Idowu mentioned.