Minorities will account for 1 in 2 of every American by 2050 (Source: U.S. Census Bureau). There are more minorities in this country today than there were people in the United States in 1910. In fact, the minority population in the U.S. is larger than the total population of all but 11 countries (Louis Kincannon: Census Bureau Director, 2007). It has an estimated buying power of about $2.5 trillion in 2009, larger than the purchasing power of all but five countries worldwide in 2009, including the United Kingdom ($2.1 trillion), Russia ($2.1 trillion), and France ($2.1 trillion) (Source: Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).
Job creation by minority-owned firms increased by 27% from 2002 to 2007, compared with 0.03% for non-minority owned firms. (Source: National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC). In fact, minorities own 15.1% of all U.S. businesses or more than 3 million firms. 99% of these firms are small businesses and account for $591 billion in revenues (Source: Small Business Administration (SBA). Every $1.00 spent with minority-owned firms, has a $1.74 of economic impact in their communities (Source: Chicago United).
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), women-owned firms are out-pacing non-women-owned businesses by double. And more than one-third of minority-owned firms are owned by Latinos. 3.3M Latino-owned businesses experienced a 46% growth from 2007 to 2012. Overall, minority-owned firms outpace the growth of non-minority firms in gross receipts (55%), employment (27%) and a number of firms (46%).
After working years in economic development promoting minority and women-owned business growth, I know firsthand the seven steps everyone business owner should be aware of:
Know your market – whether you’re just starting a business or are established and want to grow your business, it’s important to know your community – what types of businesses are lacking? Or is there an oversaturation of certain types? This is specifically important if you have a brick and mortar business where location can contribute to the success of your business. Check out the SBA’s list of market research and competitive analysis resources to help you have an edge in the market – https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/market-research-competitive-analysis#section-header-5.
Get certified and know your business codes. The South-Central Texas Regional Certification Agency
(SCTRCA), a nonprofit certifying agency (with jurisdiction in the following counties: Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Caldwell, Comal, Frio, Goliad, Guadalupe, Hays, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, McMullen, Medina, Uvalde, and Wilson) providing free business certifications. Qualifying as an African American (AABE), Asian American (ABE), Disabled Individual (DIBE), Emerging Small Business (ESBE), Hispanic American (HABE), Minority (MBE), Native American (NABE), Small (SBE), Veteran (VBE), and/or Woman-owned (WBE) will help identify your business to public and private member entities. The free certifications are accepted, and in many cases, expected, by many of the major business contract providers. Visit https://sctrca.org and go to certifications.
In addition to certification, you need to know your business codes in order to apply for certification and subsequent submittal of bids. Visit the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) https://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/concordances/concordances.html and the National Institute of Government Purchasing (NIGP) codes here https://mycpa.cpa.state.tx.us/commbook/.
Register as a vendor with as many businesses as possible. Government, corporate, even nonprofit entities use vendors to procure goods and services. The key is to register as a vendor with each entity, ask to be added to their mailing list and routinely check in with purchasing staff to remind them of your business. Again, many of these entities pay attention to certifications and require business codes to be able to quickly search and reference available goods and services.
Access free consulting, technical assistance and networking:
UTSA Small Business Development Center Network (South-West Texas Border Region) – provides business training and development services at low cost to small businesses. Visit http://txsbdc.org/about-us/ and the UTSA Institute for Economic Development offer low-cost, sometimes free business development training – http://www.iedtexas.org/.
The City of San Antonio Economic Development Home has various resources and programs, such as the Small Business Economic Development Advocacy (SBEDA) which is dedicated to serving small, minority and women-owned business enterprises (S/M/WBEs) by ensuring all businesses have an opportunity to compete for City contracts, as well as an established mentor-protégé programs – http://www.sanantonio.gov/EDD.
Launch SA is another technical service provider (located in the Main Library) offering unique training and business incubator events where you can pitch ideas and work with peers in order to grow your businesses – http://launchsa.org/.
The Maestro Entrepreneur Center provides accelerator programs, professional office space, industrial and warehouse space and a commercial kitchen for culinary businesses – http://maestrocenter.org.
The Westside Development Corporation provides business plan assistance, incubators, accelerators, financial services, and coalition development to small businesses on the Westside in order to promote projects that positively impact businesses and the larger community https://westsidedevcorp.com/legacy-corridor-business-alliance/.
Get connected to business networking groups – I recommend signing up for Chamber of Commerce newsletters to be up-to-date on business networking events where you can meet others and engage in thoughtful discussion about your needs as a business owner– www.sanantonio.gov/business/chambersofcommerce.aspx. Another group to keep in contact with is the Westside Business Alliance https://westsidedevcorp.com/legacy-corridor-business-alliance/ where you can connect with business owners and community stakeholders in the Westside to create advocacy networks, which will empower owners to promote projects that positively impact their businesses and larger communities. And always have your business cards on hand (the best ones I’ve seen have all certifications and business codes listed). Follow-up with individuals you meet. Business networking works!
Work with others for mutual benefits and know when to be competitive – sometimes it is difficult for a small business to compete with a large, established business. Combining efforts with peers, such as applying for a contract together, can be mutually beneficial and make small businesses more competitive.
However, it is also important to note that I have seen many bids turned away merely because the bid amount was too high. Most companies go for “best value” when they select bids. This doesn’t mean they won’t pay more for exceptional quality. It just means that if they aren’t familiar with the goods and services your company provides, it often makes more sense to go with an established, more affordable vendor. So be strategic with presenting competitive bids in order to compete. On that note, I recommend sharing free samples of goods and services and set-up routine appointments with potential buyers to discuss the best opportunities to have your goods and or services noticed by buyers. Being competitive and providing “try before buying” incentives may pay off in the long run!
Don’t neglect business marketing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a professional looking website or marketing material. There are many intuitive, free and low-cost “create your own stylish website” sites that you can use by merely utilizing easy to use templates. Similarly, you can also make your own business cards and other marketing materials using established online templates – there are many companies to choose from. It also helps to have a social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Many businesses, small and large alike, use it as a form of free advertising.
Knowing the business climate nationally and locally, using available resources and being proactive about making your business a known and respected entity can help you thrive as a small business.