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Program Highlight: CEF's Black Business Initiative - Why Now and What's Next?


This blog post is co-authored by Ryan Guyton, CEF Community Lending Officer, and Osa Aihie, CEF Business Accelerations Services Advisor


Ryan Guyton | Community Lending Officer

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As a Black man from Colorado with a background in banking, I know all too well the difficulties we as Black people face, especially when it comes to entrepreneurial advances and access to capital.

I’ve worked on both sides of the financial spectrum - in the corporate banking world and now as a Community Lending Officer for nonprofit lender and CDFI, Colorado Enterprise Fund. Through this experience, I’ve seen firsthand how corporate banking can be very bleak in terms of encouraging Black people to make life changing financial decisions. When a bank denies the loan request of an aspiring entrepreneur, that small business owner is left to seek out other options like borrowing from family, high-interest credit cards, or other non-sustainable means.

At CEF, we live by the idea that access to capital should be possible for entrepreneurs, regardless of the color of their skin or other demographics. After experiencing the unfavorable attitude of corporate banks towards Blacks, I was encouraged to see the number of and increase in Black businesses we serve at Colorado Enterprise Fund.

According to a 2019 Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta report on business credit for minority-owned firms 61% of Black-Owned businesses are either denied or receive less funding than requested on their application compared to 38% of white-owned firms. In Colorado, Blacks are 4% of the population and own just 2% of Colorado small businesses; yet, here at CEF, 10% of our FY19 lending activity went to Black-Owned businesses. More recently, CEF has seen demand from Black entrepreneurs for our products and services grow sharply, with the number of loans originated to Black firms increasing by 45% in FY19 when we helped 22 Black-Owned businesses access $675K of capital.
 
CEF, as well as some of our funding partners, recognized this growing demand and set out to formalize a Black Business Initiative, making the commitment to this community that we would be more intentional in our support of them, and ultimately our own accountability to them as a financial institution. Our Black Business Initiative, which includes a loan fund with capital designated specifically for Black businesses, is the start of that.
 
Through funding support from Wells Fargo, we’re also able to offer business coaching assistance and other business development opportunities. These wrap around services help businesses start and stay in business – something that, especially during the last 18+ months of fallout from closures due to COVID-19, has been critical in helping these businesses stay afloat. 

Now that I have transitioned to non-profit lending, I see the world in a new lens, a perspective that is intentional about growth and change for the “under dog”.  I take pride in knowing I have the ability and responsibility to cultivate change within our community. 
  
Osa Aihie | BAS Advisor

Connect with me on LinkedIn

The loans and business support available to Black-Owned businesses in Colorado through our Black Business Initiative is an actionable step towards the right direction. I have a deep passion for entrepreneurship because I know the economic mobility it can bring. As a BAS Advisor at CEF, I constantly remain aware of the thin line between supporting entrepreneurs and over-stepping. As a CDFI, Colorado Enterprise Fund is working to do the same with the communities it supports.

The Black Business loan fund isn’t just a chance to support economic mobility within the Black business community, it’s an opportunity for us to listen, learn and then build collectively with the community. As a Black man, nothing excites me more than the opportunity to collaborate with the individuals and organizations fighting to increase success for Black-Owned small businesses.

The next step for us in furthering our Black Business Initiative is to implement a Black Business Advisory Board. This Board is meant to be the voice of reason and concern for the needs of the Black community as it relates to small business advancement and access to capital. We vow to see you, hear you and appreciate the relationship we will build within the community.

If you are interested in joining this advisory board, or know a leader within the community who would be a good candidate, let us know! We are currently looking for nominations and plan to kick off our first meeting early 2022.
 

 

Want to get involved or have someone to nominate for the Black Business Advisory Board?
Contact Ryan or Osa to learn more:  

Ryan Guyton | Community Lending Officer | ryan@coloradoenterprisefund.org
Osa Aihie | BAS Advisor | osa@coloradoenterprisefund.org
 

Get to Know Black-Owned Small Businesses We've Worked With
Read the stories of some of the wonderful businesses in the CEF family
Coffee at The Point | Ryan Cobbins TeaLee's Tea House and Bookstore | Louis Freeman & Rise Jones Mustard Seed Construction / Sewer Experts | Marissa Beaver


 

CEF’s advisors provide helpful suggestions of an educational nature that are not intended to mandate or supersede the business practices or decisions of your Company, its owners, or managers. The information provided here does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available herein are for general informational purposes only. You should contact your attorney to understand your rights and for legal advice about your specific situation.

 
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