The pandemic’s economic costs have been clear. Swift job losses and an uneven economic recovery have affected every part of the American economy.
It has been particularly brutal for Black-owned businesses, 41% of which closed during the first few months of quarantine, according to one study. But at the same time, the number of Black entrepreneurs soared to the highest level in 25 years.
But while entrepreneurs are teeming with passion, they often lack the business acumen and knowledge to be successful. Knowing the difficulties entrepreneurs face, Molson Coors Beverage Company has partnered with The Lonely Entrepreneur, a nonprofit organization that helps business owners on their entrepreneurial journey with its Learning Community, a one-stop shop for the tools entrepreneurs need to succeed.
The partnership, which kicks off this month, gives 200 Black entrepreneurs in Molson Coors’ hometowns of Chicago, Denver and Milwaukee access to the Lonely Entrepreneur’s Black Entrepreneur Initiative, which provides knowledge, tools and support for entrepreneurs, including a network of 18,000 small-business owners across all stages of the entrepreneurial journey.
“Entrepreneurship is hard, and the challenges of starting your own business are even greater because of COVID. When you layer it on top of being a Black entrepreneur, it’s even more difficult,” says Michael Nordman, senior community affairs manager for Molson Coors. “There’s an opportunity here to make entrepreneurship an even larger part of the Black community,” thus growing jobs and local economies.
Molson Coors is making available the Lonely Entrepreneur Learning Community – a hub that includes hundreds of learning modules; tools and templates; access to funding and vendors; and a knowledgeable network of tens of thousands – to Black entrepreneurs who work with the following organizations in the three cities:
The partnership developed out of Project Justice, Molson Coors’ social justice initiative, which supports dozens of organizations committed to empowerment, equity, community building and justice.
“Entrepreneurship is hard enough. But being a Black entrepreneur is even more challenging,” says Michael Dermer, founder of the Lonely Entrepreneur. “There is so much talent in our Black communities, but many Black businesses lack access to the training and capital they need to succeed. The Black Entrepreneur Initiative and our partnership with Molson Coors seeks to change that.”
Eight in 10 Black-owned business fail in the first 18 months, studies have found, compared to 30% overall.
Those are figures Dermer’s organization seeks to improve. “We aim to help our entrepreneurs develop skills so they can form their businesses and succeed. Our goal is to get it in the hands of 100,000 Black entrepreneurs and make a real impact,” he says.
Dermer started the Lonely Entrepreneur in 2016 and established the Black Entrepreneur Initiative in 2018. Since then, the Black Entrepreneur Initiative has grown to more than 18,000 users who have access to the entire Lonely Entrepreneur platform.
Understanding that Black small-business owners face unique circumstances, Dermer created a network of community ambassadors who advise the organization, including Edward Lewis, founder of Essence magazine; Eric B., actor and hip-hop legend; and Lyneir Richardson, executive director of Rutgers University’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.
The entrepreneurs tapping into Dermer’s network run the gamut from “twinkle-in-the-eye” rookies to seasoned veterans, from makers and restaurateurs to app developers and in between, he says.
Entrepreneurs need support at every turn, Nordman says, and giving small business owners in Chicago, Denver and Milwaukee an assist is key to closing the racial wealth gap in those cities.
“It’s an investment in communities that haven’t had resources like this,” he says. “It’s another example of how Molson Coors is uniting together to support our hometown communities and to champion diversity.”