At Next Street, we are on a journey to create a more inclusive U.S. economy by driving growth for small businesses in every community. Small businesses create jobs and help build wealth at significantly higher rates than employment. Unfortunately, certain demographics and communities don’t have equal access to the benefits of entrepreneurship.
Today, people of color and women are starting businesses at significantly higher rates than White men. However, systematic racism and discrimination still prevent these groups from sustaining and growing their businesses as a way to build wealth. Business owners of color are denied loans at three times the rate of their white counterparts. Women receive only 16% of all conventional small business loans. These kinds of barriers are holding back local communities and the economy at large. This needs to change.
We see these obstacles at work throughout the US. In our assessment of Chicago’s small business ecosystem, we found that while Chicago has a robust and growing small business industry, women and people of color are not benefiting equally. One business owner told us: “sexism, racism, and ageism define business here — so much that I didn’t even want to open my first business here. And when I did, I wanted to create a new, different narrative for my city.”
At one of our business solution centers in NYC, we recently worked with a woman owner from Pakistan who had been operating a daycare center in Queens for 16 years. She hesitated to reach out to city agencies and banks due to language and ethnic barriers, missing out on capital to grow her business and several procurement opportunities.
We know that in order to effectively and credibly address these problems, we need to take an honest look at our own firm and its practices. To do this, we are launching an internal committee – NXST for Inclusive Impact. This new committee will push our firm, our culture, and our team to place diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of everything we do. Our goal is to ensure that individuals from all identities and lived experiences are able to fully participate in the US economy through small business and entrepreneurship.
NXST for Inclusive Impact will help us ensure that our impact is measured for inclusion across every function and in all of our client work. As we look to revolutionize how our clients serve small businesses, we will push our vision for a more inclusive economy forward every day. We look forward to sharing our insights with you as we challenge ourselves and build a better future for all small business owners.
Marina Linhart, CEO