- As social unrest persists, minorities and their communities remain in the spotlight. With that attention comes an opportunity to better serve and address their needs.
- Minority-owned business initiatives can help bring those issues into focus and expose them to a larger platform of experts.
- Connecting with those companies takes work, time and “outside the box” thinking by leadership.
Every little bit helps. As the pandemic and social unrest are tearing at the fabrics of communities around the globe, any assistance or aid to those in need — especially in minority and traditionally marginalized spheres — is welcomed.
Established businesses are taking this to heart by partnering with minority businesses and servicing marginalized communities in need, especially in the wake of COVID-19. For example, one high-profile fast-food chain worked in conjunction with an Asian beverage company to serve drinks via the restaurant’s drive-thru as a way of drumming up interest in the brand.
There are countless ways partnerships like these can empower and benefit minority businesses. Consider a non-English app or company struggling to gain traction in an unfamiliar market. A community of English assistants, for example, may be beneficial in bolstering awareness among American consumers.
Capable and forward-thinking businesses — especially small businesses — can use their resources to assist and shepherd minority businesses in expanding their services and gain perspectives necessary in appealing to a diverse marketplace.
How Businesses Can Align With Minority Communities
Businesses that want to engage with underrepresented communities need to be deliberate about it. It’s not as simple as making a choice and acting on that selection. Forethought, authenticity and — sometimes — incentives are needed.
The federal government, for instance, offers tax breaks to companies that pursue partnerships with minority business enterprises (MBEs). While the tax breaks might be enough motivation for some companies to team up with minority-led organizations, these partnerships offer numerous other big-picture benefits: long-term profitability, a more diverse team and a wide swath of potential customers.
Here are some ways to get there:
Attend or Host Networking Events
Look into the MBE partnerships that will best serve your company by engaging with people and leaders at a networking event. Those events are going to look a little different — and possibly virtual — for now, but don’t let that deter you. Seek out these opportunities, paying particular attention to events hosting minority businesses or highlighting issues and initiatives specific to those enterprises.
One group specifically focused on cultivating profit in Black communities hosts pop-up shops that market goods from Black-owned businesses in north Minneapolis. Events like these can help kick-start relationships between new businesses or introduce established names to rising stars.
When deciding to enroll in an event, scan the attendee list. This can give you a good idea of who will be in there, which will allow you to do some research to see whether there are MBE guests — and whether you and other attendees share any interests. During the events, you can try breaking the ice by talking about your shared interests while working to determine if a partnership makes sense.
Link up With a Nonprofit or Foundation
Nonprofit collaborations can do a world of good for businesses and communities — if done correctly, of course. Companies should pursue these unions to connect with the talent and customers that can take their operations to the next level.
Say you want to get a sneak peek at the next generation of minority tech experts. You can make your search easier by joining up with a nonprofit that caters specifically to that population and provides the resources, supplies, mentors and know-how necessary to get those jobs and make that impact. Such a partnership exists, and it’s indicative of the work that can be done when the right nonprofit collaborates with the right business.
You know your organization’s target audience and goals better than anyone, so use both as the starting point when considering potential nonprofit partners. Research foundations specifically geared toward improving the services your company provides or assisting the communities you want to serve. Keeping the focus on those areas should ensure you’re working with a nonprofit that helps your company continue to level up.
Take Part in Local CSR Initiatives
Contributing to a local corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative can put businesses on the ground floor with the communities they serve. Working on CSR initiatives that prioritize science aptitude and entrepreneurial interest in underrepresented groups is an excellent place to start.
Startup founder and CEO Michelle Maryns pledged her company’s commitment to supporting marginalized groups in the Minneapolis area. In particular, Maryns vowed to champion women of color, who she says are “one of the fastest-growing business segments in the country, but their revenue isn’t on par with their peers. We want to change that.”
Embrace a hyperlocal approach to CSR to put your business in direct contact with a new and diverse audience. Active involvement in these local groups can take a few different forms, whether it’s through indirect participation (e.g., regular monetary investment) or something more pronounced, like leaders becoming board members or employees regularly volunteering. Either way, taking a local interest in CSR strengthens your company’s foundation and commitment to the communities you serve.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
There’s no such thing as a bad time to talk or create inroads. Keep a connection with (or join) minority chambers of commerce. Most chambers seek members who are interested in expanding the local business community as a whole, even if applicants don’t fit into a certain demographic.
You could also provide forums or workshops that keep companies in contact with one another. Schedule regular check-ins every month or quarter to update everyone on current happenings. Those meetings can also double as educational sessions in which an expert shares his or her insights to the group to improve their processes going forward.
Your business can provide the boost and connections that MBEs need in order to scale. Look for ways to engage with these companies that can be mutually beneficial to both sides.
Minority Business – DepositPhotos