Black History Month and beyond: Supporting Black-owned small-business success in the First State


Michelle Harris is the director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Delaware District. The organization was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government, to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small-business concerns; preserve free competitive enterprise; and maintain and strengthen the overall economy of the nation.

Black History Month celebrates Black accomplishment in every arena. When President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, he reflected upon it as a time “to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor.”

And so, this Black History Month, the Small Business Administration’s Delaware District joins with the Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce and the SBA-funded Delaware Small Business Development Center’s Community Navigator Program to celebrate Black-owned small-business success here in the First State with three panel discussion-centered Black History Month events — one to be held in each of Delaware’s three counties. Each event will bring into sharp focus Black-owned small businesses’ resilience, fortitude and future-facing resolve, as well as the small business-building resources that can help secure success.

Registration for these free-of-charge events is open to the public. Delaware small businesses, community stakeholders and all other small-business supporters are invited to join to hear from the panels and participate in networking.

The events will occur on Feb. 17, 22 and 28:

• First, the Small Business Administration and its partners will host a panel discussion at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 17 at the First State Community Action Agency, 308 N. Railroad Ave. in Georgetown.

• The next panel discussion will be at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 22 at Canaan Baptist Church, 3011 New Castle Ave. in New Castle.

• The final event is set for 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 28 at Delaware State University’s Innovation Café, 1200 N. DuPont Highway in Dover.

The events are free and open to the public. For more information or to register, visit here.

The Community Navigator Program is just one Small Business Administration-backed resource that Black-owned small businesses here in Delaware can look to for support. The administration stands ready to help with:

• Local support — Local “resource partner” organizations — SCORE Delaware, the Delaware Small Business Development Center, the Women’s Business Center at True Access Capital and the Veterans Business Outreach Center — provide small-business workshops and training opportunities, ongoing mentorship, answers to one-time business questions and more. And, here in Delaware, the Delaware SBDC has been named a Navigator organization in the Community Navigator Program. In that role, the center works with community-tied organizations to connect business-building resources with Delaware’s underserved entrepreneurs, especially people of color, individuals with disabilities and business owners in rural and low-income communities.

• Access to capital — Small-business success so often starts with funding. That’s why so many small businesses use Small Business Administration-backed loans for startup, working capital and growth-stage financing. The administration also offers grant programs for businesses in specialized fields — Small Business and Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

• Contracting opportunities — Now is a tremendous time for small businesses to consider making selling to the federal government part of their growth strategy. President Joe Biden issued a day one Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities, instructing agencies to ensure that federal contracting and procurement opportunities be made more readily available to all eligible vendors and to remove barriers faced by underserved individuals and communities. And, significantly, President Biden announced a goal of increasing the share of contracts awarded to small, disadvantaged business by 50% by fiscal year 2025. The Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development program, for example, is geared toward small, disadvantaged businesses — a group that the federal government currently aims to set aside 12% of contracting dollars spent stateside for annually. Additional contracting assistance programs also help small businesses win federal contracts through mentorship and exclusive contracting opportunities.

• Learning platform — SBA’s online learning programs allow entrepreneurs to independently access learning tools for every business stage, from plan to launch to growth. And, geared especially for female entrepreneurs is it online Ascent learning platform, providing e-learning resources on a variety of topics.

Today, small business stands at a unique time in history, as we look to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. And we know that COVID-19 significantly impacted Black-owned businesses. So, this Black History Month, I urge all Delawareans to support Black-owned small businesses at every opportunity and to visit here for information about programs and services.

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