Minority business accelerators have launched in a handful of metropolitan areas in recent years as local businesses, chambers of commerce and economic development groups work to create more jobs and improve the quality of life in their regions. The Cincinnati accelerator, created by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber in 2003, has inspired officials and business people in the Greenville, S.C.; Charlotte, N.C., and Newark, N.J. areas to start similar programs.
A key goal of the accelerators is to help minority owned-companies win contracts with large companies.
Mentors at the accelerators act as advisers, meeting with company owners, helping them improve operations and build strategies. They also connect owners with big customers.
Local chambers of commerce and economic development agencies have launched accelerators to help minority businesses create jobs. Officials say the inability of minority companies to expand holds back a region’s economic growth.
“Look at the number of minority business enterprises and how many are able to build jobs. It’s grossly disproportionate from their majority counterparts,” says Nika White, vice president of diversity and inclusion at the Greenville Chamber of Commerce.
One reason for the disparity is that a small company may not have the infrastructure, such as computer systems, and the experience to operate on the level needed to fulfill a big contract, says Jeffrey Robinson, a professor of management and entrepreneurship at Rutgers University. He is working on the Newark accelerator.
“There’s a leap you have to take from the five-person company to a couple hundred, to being a multimillion-dollar company. You can’t run them the same way,” Robinson says.