Thursday, December 9, 2021

Leveling the playing field, closing the wealth gap for Black-owned businesses

By STACIA MURPHY

Improving the quality of life for everyone means taking equitable measures that allow everyone to participate in the economy. In order to praise our city as a place where basic needs are met, and people can thrive, it’s vital we take actionable measures to advance inclusive entrepreneurship. As the director of Equity, Outreach, and Strategic Partnerships for the Indy Chamber, it is my responsibility (not to mention my own personal mission) to assist disenfranchised communities in solving problems of equitable access to business capital. Businesses are an extension of our community, and we have reached a rare moment of opportunity as corporations take a fundamental role in our fight for equity.

Stacia Murphy

Business Equity for Indy (BEI) celebrated its first year and launched its website in late October 2021. BEI is a joint effort of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, the Indy Chamber, in collaboration with the Indianapolis Urban League to grow a more inclusive business climate and build greater equity and economic opportunity for the Indy Region’s Black residents and community members of color. BEI consists of a collaboration of organizations and business leaders coming together to make Indianapolis a more equitable city, focusing on public policy, health care, learning and talent, hiring and promoting, and procurement and participation.

Our goal is to have 100 companies and institutions sign the BEI Procurement Roundtable pledge, a commitment to advancing equity in our city. By signing the pledge, businesses are committing to making a more equitable Indianapolis over time. To date, 15 businesses have signed the pledge, and you can learn more about those companies at businessequityindy.com. The pledge is not a checklist that needs to be met before signing your name, instead, it’s a commitment to take meaningful action to address the issues of racial inequity and justice in Central Indiana and, ultimately, to advance Black-owned businesses. McKinsey and Company estimates that investing in Black-owned businesses is one vital way to help close the racial wealth gap and lead to $290 billion in our economy.

To truly advance and invest in Black-owned businesses and businesses owned by a person of color, we need to start looking at revenue-generating opportunities in addition to other access to capital ideas or within the access to capital conversation.

Indianapolis currently ranks 55th out of 85 metropolitan cities in the number of Black-owned businesses. For businesses of any size to grow in scale, one of the most sustainable ways is through multiyear contracts, whether it’s with governmental, corporate or institutional customers

Black-owned businesses tend to earn lower revenues in most industries and are overrepresented in low-growth, low-revenue sectors such as food service. Black entrepreneurs might also lack access to the networks and relationships that could help them earn multiyear corporate contracts. BEI Procurement Roundtable provides resources like peer-to-peer networking, quarterly opportunities to share best practices and learn from leading organizations in supplier diversity, and access to resources to identify local, diverse suppliers with the capabilities to meet their business’ needs.

Supplier Diversity Programs are designed to develop and foster strategic supplier relationships with companies owned by one of several diverse categories. According to the 2021 State of Supplier Diversity Report, less than six percent of corporate spending is done with diverse, disenfranchised businesses. Those categories of owners are defined in the following systematically disenfranchised minority groups; Black or person of color-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, LBTQIA+-owned, and disabled-owned meaning over 94% of supplier spending is done outside of those categories.

BEI is positioning Supplier Diversity Programs for success by removing barriers in Indy’s corporate community and capitalizing on the power of businesses seeking to change and sustain business practices. Our procurement roundtable discussions work toward supporting and standardizing more equitable processes and make these programs more widely adopted. A more equitable business landscape can mitigate the effects of systematic obstacles for Black business owners.

An investment in Black business owners creates equitable access to resources and opportunities. BEI is shifting mindsets by prioritizing actions that improve access to jobs, small business opportunities, education, health care, and public policy advocacy.

As leaders in this community, we must hold one another accountable for creating short- and long-term change. Please join us in our pledge by visiting businessequityindy.com and start sharing progress toward a racially equitable Indianapolis.

Stacia Murphy led the coordination of Business Equity for Indy Procurement Roundtable initiative and is the director of Equity, Outreach, and Strategic Partnerships with Indy Chamber.

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