Dear BIPOC Community Member:
You are one of the 480+ BIPOC business owners, 50+ organizations governed or led by BIPOC members, 200+ BIPOC thought leaders, and 15 potential charitable and state agency investors receiving this email. We write to gauge your interest in the creation of an entity to serve the needs of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) business owners in Vermont. Please take a few minutes to complete our online survey by clicking here.
Do you believe such an organization is necessary and to what ends? Do you need access to capital, new markets, contracting opportunities, or advocacy on regulatory reform among other needs? Or do you just need a space for mutual support and the exchange of promising business practices? Let us know by taking our short survey.
This email took nearly two decades to write. Our current experience providing outreach and technical assistance to minority owned businesses for the Vermont COVID Economic Recovery Grant program suggested to us that this might be the right time to organize. Other points in time we considered launching this initiative was after we
• Organized the minority business roundtable for Gov. Jim Douglas (2002)
• Conducted research on minority owned business (2005, unpublished)
• Organized Making Vermont Work for Everyone: A Think Tank for Vermont Leaders of Color at which one quarter of the participants were BIPOC business owners or not-for-profit executives. (2010)
• Launched the Vermont Vision for a Multicultural Future Initiative where we convene an annual conference designed for executive- and legislative-level leadership to share proven strategies that strengthen business essential diversity, inclusion, and equity practices. (2012 – present)
• Launched the Vermont African American Heritage Trail in collaboration with the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing to expand economic opportunity through attracting tourists from the rapidly growing multicultural marketplace. (2013 – present)
• Hosted events for the National Brotherhood of Skiers, the New England Chapters of the Buffalo Soldier and Trooper Motorcycle Clubs, and National Black Marathoners Association.
The tipping point in our decision to act now has to do with the fact that on the opening day of the COVID Economic Recovery Grant program over 1,700 women owned businesses applied whereas it took nearly a week for the first couple of hundred BIPOC businesses to learn of the program and apply. Had there not been a $2.5 million set aside for BIPOC businesses we would have been locked out of recovery funds within days of the grant program launch. It took nearly a month for BIPOC business to exhaust the $2.5 million set aside.
Organizations such as the Vermont Commission on Women, the Center for Women and Enterprise, and the Vermont Women’s Business Network stand at the ready to provide information and technical assistance to women owned businesses. We believe a BIPOC business focused organization would give ourselves a competitive starting point. We seek to verify the veracity of that belief through the survey.
We will close the survey after three weeks and shortly thereafter publish its findings and recommendations. If there is insufficent interest or energy to build something we will wait a little longer (remember this email was twenty years in the making!). However, if we believe there is sufficient interest in creating an entity to serve the needs of BIPOC business owners we will invite the charitable investors into the conversation. This preliminary work is underwritten by both the Vermont Partnership for Fairness & Diversity and the Vermont Community Foundation through a grant to the ALANA Community Organization.
Now take the survey and let us know what you think!