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Business Foundation Will Give Black Entrepreneurs The Spotlight In A New Initiative

By Aaron Sánchez-Guerra The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) 

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Durham-Based "NC Idea" is launching a Black Entrepreneurship Council to better reach out to and support black entrepreneurs.


One of North Carolina's leading foundations in supporting startups and entrepreneurs announced Thursday that it would start a new council to focus on the state's Black entrepreneurship.

Durham-based NC Idea is launching a Black Entrepreneurship Council, a Black-led board that will allow the foundation to improve its outreach to promising entrepreneurs in North Carolina's Black business community and help guide programs and grants with that purpose.

The council, which is currently taking applications, would offer input on funding decisions through programs like the NC Idea Ecosystem, which provides grant funding to entrepreneurial organizations. The foundation says it's awarded over $3.2 million to more than 30 partner organizations.

"There's data that shows the racial disparities and they're horrible," Thom Ruhe, CEO and president of NC Idea, said in an interview with The News & Observer. "You can Google it and you'll see all the sources that tell you that Black foundations are underrepresented, underfunded and under-engaged."

The foundation previously committed to allocating no less than 50% of program and funding resources toward underserved communities such as women, minorities and rural populations.

"We're going to put our money where our mouth is and hopefully get other [organizations] to do the same," Ruhe said.

NC Idea said the foundation will manage budgets for the next two fiscal years of at least 10% of its net assets, allowing half a million dollars in funding to be overseen by the new council.

"Beyond having the ambition to serve this community, we want this effort to be led by the Black community," said Ruhe. "We aren't presuming to know exactly everything the Black community needs. We hope that the council will help us listen and hear directly what the collective thought is around what the community needs and learn about how me might deploy the capital to help the community."

White entrepreneurs' advantage over their Black counterparts is high in part due to their unequal rates of wealth inheritance and receipt of a transfer of ownership of a business, according to a 2019 report from the Samuel Dubois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University.

The report indicates that Black entrepreneurs generally have less capital to start businesses.

In 2016, for example, 45% of Black-owned businesses used less than $25,000 in startup capital, compared to 37% of white-owned businesses, showing that Black entrepreneurs have to start out at smaller scales.

Anyone interested in serving on the Black Entrepreneurship Council can find more information on NC Idea's website. The foundation is accepting applications until 5 p.m. on July 31 and expects to form the council by Aug. 14. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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