Black-owned businesses play a critical role in the United States economy, but Black business owners often encounter unique obstacles when managing and growing their companies. A 2019 study on the State of Black Entrepreneurship in America from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation found that three factors are essential for ensuring the long-term success of a business: access to financial capital, social capital, and human capital.
In other words, for small business owners to succeed, they need access to three things: funding, strong peer and mentor relationships, and the opportunity to acquire skills and traits that can help them get ahead. Unfortunately, compared to other minority business owners, research has shown that Black entrepreneurs are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to social capital.
Networking groups and mentor relationships can be key in overcoming the challenge of social capital. Working together with a strong network of peers going through similar struggles in their businesses can lead to win-win opportunities that help Black business owners thrive.
Keep reading to learn more about professional business networking organizations for the Black community.
Why networking matters
Business networking is a great way to learn and grow a business, regardless of your background. In fact, many successful entrepreneurs and CEOs attribute their business successes to strong relationships. Networking with other business owners can help you generate leads, learn cost-saving methods, pick up management tips, and share access to important resources.
For minority communities, networking with business owners with a similar background can lead to several benefits, including methods and connections to overcome community-specific challenges. Business-owners of Color are likely to see the same benefits when building networking and mentoring relationships.
Peer support and mentorship groups
Coast-to-coast, many national, regional, and local business networking organizations are designed exclusively for Black business owners.
Here’s a look at some top organizations, opportunities, and resources to know:
U.S. Black Chambers
U.S. Black Chambers is a nationwide resource dedicated to Black-owned businesses. Search online to find your local Black Chamber of Commerce to join and connect with other local business owners.
The U.S. Black Chambers advocate for Black-owned businesses and offer businesses assistance with access to capital, business opportunities, and training programs. This organization also works to support local Black Chambers of Commerce.
Tip: Your local Black Chamber of Commerce may be a great resource. In addition to local and state government advocacy, a local Chamber of Commerce could give you connections to other local business owners and opportunities to promote your business to new potential customers.
Enterprising Women of Color Initiative
A project of the Minority Business Development Agency in the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Enterprising Women of Color Initiative developed Enterprising Women of Color. The Enterprising Women of Color community shares resources, events, and opportunities for qualifying business owners.
Among other programs, the group runs an online video series featuring successful women entrepreneurs of Color. Presentations include interactive discussions covering topics like access to capital, overcoming obstacles and competition, navigating changing economic conditions, and self-care as a busy professional.
Black Professionals Network
One million members strong, the Black Professionals Network is a global network of Black professionals across industries and professions. BPN has a mission of serving 1 million Black professionals by 2050. Goals include increasing household earnings and improved career trajectories, with clear plans and solutions, including business partnerships, education, and personal development courses.
BPN has active chapters with in-person events in Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and it’s looking for leaders to help found new local groups for events and meetups.
Meta (the parent company behind Facebook and Instagram) launched Elevate in 2020. Elevate supports Black, Latinx, and Hispanic communities by offering resources, training, and scholarships designed to build digital skills, but their Small Business hub is particularly useful for small business owners. Elevate Circles is a mentorship program designed to help Black and Latinx & Hispanic business owners build their expertise in digital marketing, specifically on Facebook Ads Manager and other relevant Facebook products.
Code2040 is a nonprofit aimed at ending the structural barriers preventing Black and Latinx workers and entrepreneurs from reaching their full potential in the technology sector. Code2040 points out that just 2-5.3% of tech executives are Black, and Black and Latinx professionals only make up about 20% of the overall technical workforce at major tech companies.
This organization works with those who already have a background in coding or IT and want the tools and connections to take their career to the next level. Tech-focused startup founders and anyone looking at improving their career with technology companies should check out what Code2040 has to offer.
A nonprofit working to eliminate the racial wealth gap, Black Connect is dedicated to improving the success rate of Black-owned businesses. Black Connect works in every state to help enterprises “collaborate, educate, incubate, and innovate.”
Black Connect’s Business & Entrepreneur Assessment (BEA) is a standout mentoring program that actively seeks mentors and learners. Whether you’re deciding if you want to start a business or want to work to improve and grow your existing business, BEA could be perfect for your needs.
Black Business Network
Black Business Network is a community of Black business owners and startup entrepreneurs. In addition to online resources and networking tools, BBN runs local events, such as the Black Women in Business Brunch and Black Investor 360. It also maintains a business directory to find and work with local Black professionals in your area.
If you’re looking for a list of organizations dedicated to supporting Black and ethnic minority communities, the BBN Support Hub should be on your bookmarks list. It includes courses, mentorship programs, industry professional organizations, funding resources, marketplaces, awards, and events.
First Founders helps early-stage entrepreneurs build successful companies. Resources include a business accelerator and pitch competitions.
The “Ask Us Anything” page is a fun way to get your questions answered, whether they’re about business in general or First Founders specifically. Send in your questions by video, audio, or text, and you’ll get a personalized response.
Melanence is a new platform for diverse business founders to connect and learn from each other. Members get weekly, curated introductions to other entrepreneurs, or you can connect with others through virtual networking tools that match you based on goals, background, or expertise.
You may find a new mentor, mentee, or business buddy from its community of 2,500 founders.
The Gathering Spot
The Gathering Spot is a private membership club where members can collaborate and build community. Members enjoy major perks, including workspaces, networking opportunities, complimentary breakfast, a full-service bar and restaurant, conference rooms, concierge services, and a packed calendar of member events.
The Gathering Spot has venues in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles (coming soon). There are also networking communities without a physical club in Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New York, and Charlotte.
Building up Black-owned enterprises
Black entrepreneurs and small business owners can work together to help the Black business community grow and flourish through mentorship, referrals, education, and other support methods.
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy, and it’s even more challenging when the deck is stacked against you. However, networking, support, and collaboration can unlock new business opportunities and increase social capital. Black business networking organizations are an excellent resource to support Black businesses and connect with business owners of Color.