Black-owned businesses have been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic — shutting down at almost twice the rate of others. As a result, companies have stepped up to not only make sure these businesses survive but thrive. American Express (AXP), in conjunction with fundraising platform IFundWomen of Color, has unveiled the 100 Black women entrepreneurs selected for its "100 for 100" program.
Each of the women will receive a grant of $25,000 and 100 days of resources, including business education, mentorship, marketing assistance, and virtual networking. American Express says that its goal is to help these entrepreneurs grow their businesses as part of the company's $1 billion initiative to promote racial, ethnic, and gender equity for colleagues, customers, and communities.
While researching small businesses, Clayton Ruebensaal, Amex’s EVP of global B2B marketing, and his team had a shocking realization: While black business owners make up 9% of small businesses in the country, they were only making up a little over 1% of sales.
“That says something's really wrong. That is a big gap. We dug into what the gap was — because of systemic racism, a lot of problems were happening. They were getting their first credit card later than their white counterparts. They were getting a lot of things a little bit later, and what would end up happening? They were getting funding less successfully or getting less funding.”
Ruebensaal tells Yahoo Finance that it was at that moment that he and his team knew that their efforts had to focus specifically on helping Black businesses, especially ones run by women. He says that one of his goals is to let the general population know that Black women entrepreneurs are exceptional.
"Of all the entrepreneurs in this country, the number one growing group is Black women. They are starting 763 new businesses every day, and that's awesome. So not just focusing on black business owners, but even getting more specific and saying, we want to champion Black women entrepreneurs, not because they need our help, but because they are going to be the next big businesses out there," he said.
Ruebensaal reminds Yahoo Finance that recessions can prompt innovation. “GE, P&G, Facebook, Square, Instagram, Uber were all created during a recession. I have no doubt that out of this recession and this crisis, there too will be the next Ubers and GEs. And I wouldn't be surprised if it comes out of Black women.”
The 100 entrepreneurs represent various industries, including fashion and beauty, food and beverage, finance, fitness and wellness, home goods, apparel, technology, social good, and more.
Brittany Rhodes is one of the women selected. She has a startup called Black Girl MATHgic, which is aimed at helping Black girls conquer their math anxieties by providing a foundational math lesson/activity booklet based on real-world themes. Rhodes says the lessons are designed to show relevance and create excitement among students.
"I am so honored and grateful to be chosen as a ‘100 for 100’ program recipient! This opportunity couldn't have come at a better time as I prepare to grow my team and launch new products to continue to build math confidence in our next generation."
Ruebensaal says that the $25,000 grants and networking are just the beginning for these entrepreneurs.
"This effort doesn't stop with the hundred. It doesn't stop with the 250,000 we want to help. We're going to help people that are also going to be part of this mission and this long-term commitment to helping Black business owners.
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.