By Casey Murray | OBSERVER Staff Writer
The California Black Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 30-Oct. 1 will host the Economic Business Summit and Roundtable 2022, a business summit to help small business owners.
It’s the first event of its kind the chamber has hosted since COVID-19 shut down large events and many businesses, and there’s never been more demand for networking and support.
The event at the Embassy Suites Sacramento is free. Those interested can register at calbcc.org.
The number of new businesses actually boomed during the pandemic. In Sacramento County, the number of business applications has risen steadily, with a boost during 2020 and 2021.
A 2021 survey by software company Gusto and the National Association of Women Business Owners suggests that Black women are the largest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs post-pandemic.
Jay King, president and CEO of the California Black Chamber, said the event is designed to help these new small businesses network and expand, and includes a pitch contest.
“We’ll teach them how to pitch their business on one day and then the next day they’ll do a 21/2-minute pitch. Those that are looking to hire people can win up to $50,000,” he said. “The idea is to award money to small businesses that will actually use the dollars to help grow their business, get supplies and whatever they need.”
Recessions can sometimes spur entrepreneurship as people lose work and need to find a way to create more income. The Gusto survey noted that many Black women who started businesses during the pandemic did so for this reason. But what will happen to these new entrepreneurs remains to be seen, especially after a national report by the federal Committee on Small Business found that the rate of Black business ownership dropped more than any other group (41%) between February and April 2020, when COVID-19 began to shutter businesses.
The drop was partially attributed to lack of support networks and less access to financial relief, with an increased likelihood of being located in neighborhoods with high COVID-19 case rates. An article from McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, noted that Black-owned businesses also were more likely to be under financial strain pre-pandemic and that the pandemic exacerbated that strain.
King said the summit will respond to such issues, which he sees as especially important to Black business entrepreneurs.
“We’re going to have workshops on financial literacy because we believe that financial literacy is the number-one issue in Black and Brown communities and if we become financially literate, we can change 100 years in 10,” King said.
Other workshops cover how to present in an interview, how to access loans and how to land contracts, with banks and employers on site to offer services.
Networking, of course, is the heart of the conference. As above studies point out, stronger business relationships and a stronger business community can help small enterprises stay afloat.
King said that though the event is sponsored by the Black Chamber, he wants every group to participate in the exchange.
“We want to be able to create strategic partnerships and coalitions with other groups and organizations,” he said. “That’s why we’ve invited the Hmong community. It’s why we’ve invited the Vietnamese community, why we’ve invited the Asian Chamber and the Hispanic Chamber. We have to be at the table with America and with the rainbow of America if we’re going to really have an impact.”
Ultimately, King hopes that in addition to making business connections, entrepreneurs realize they’re not alone.
“There’s going to be a lot of people there that can help you and some that you can help. And it’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be invigorating,” he said. “There are a lot of folks, just like (you), with the same issues, and they need the same help … and we’re trying to knock some of those barriers down.”