GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new program in Grand Rapids is looking to increase business ownership among people of color.
The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is launching the Center for Economic Inclusion, which is housed inside its downtown headquarters.
Attah Obande, the vice president of business and talent development, said less than 1% of businesses with yearly revenues over $250,000 in the area are owned by people of color.
“Businesses owned by people of color are just not scaling,” Obande said. “We (metro Grand Rapids) have a great economy for business but it has also showed up at the bottom of the list for African Americans financially, as well as 122nd for Hispanic entrepreneurs so we have this tale of two cities…”
The center will help entrepreneurs navigate financing and develop business plans and provide support after they open.
Jessica Ann Tyson, the owner of the Candied Yam restaurant on 44th Street, says the center will be a helpful resource for people of color getting their start as owners. She faced many barriers when launching her restaurant, which specializes in Southern cuisine.
“We don’t necessarily have the generational wealth,” Tyson said.
Tyson said navigating the world of bank loans and having access to capital can be especially difficult.
“It’s hard because you have to have a ledger that says you’ve been successful. You have to have a ledger that says that you have this amount of money and that your risk is lower, or at a minimum, and I just didn’t have that,” Tyson said.
She hopes the center can help inspire other entrepreneurs and provide additional tools for success. She said that even with all the work involved in opening and running a business, the impact you can have makes it all worth it.
“I can change the game for individuals. I can change the game, the trajectory for my family. I can be a part of something greater,” Tyson said.