Memphis’s Goal: To Grow Revenue At Minority-Owned Firms By $50M In Five Years

By Elaine Pofeldt

The future of entrepreneurship in America will include many more people of color than in the past, as recent data shows. The city of Memphis is making the most of the trend. It is working to accelerate the growth of minority-owned businesses in a flagship program that could potentially become a model for other cities to emulate in their economic development programs

Under the leadership of Mayor Jim Strickland, The 800 Initiative, launched in May 2018, has set a goal of growing the revenue of 800 minority-owned businesses with paid employees that the city has identified by $50 million by 2023.

The program is offering business coaching, technical assistance, education and access to loans and grants to help the businesses scale. The program also aims to help 200 minority-owned businesses without paid employees to grow their revenue into the six figures and start hiring employees.

The 800 Initiative, hosted by the city’s Office of Diversity and Compliance, is funded in part by a $500,000 allocation in the city’s 2018-2019 budget, and a $1 million commitment over four years by FedEx.

Partners in The 800 Initiative include Christian Brothers University, the Memphis-based business accelerator StartCo and Epicenter, a local entrepreneurship hub, are offering strategic guidance and programming assistance. Other partners in the citywide initiative include Tennessee Small Business Development Centers, the Black Business Association of Memphis and the Mid-South Minority Business Council.

African- and African-American owned businesses are the fastest-growing group in the U.S., as the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the world’s largest study of entrepreneurship, just found.

One fifth of Africans and African Americans are starting and running new businesses—up 15.5% from 2016, the report found; another 4% are running established businesses.

Among Hispanic Americans, 12% are running new businesses; while 5% run established firms. Seventeen percent of Asian American are running startups and 7% are running established businesses. Among white Caucasian Americans, 12% are starting businesses, and 9% are running established businesses.

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