In February, United Way of New York City (UWNYC) officially announced the Together We Thrive: Black Business Network, a broad coalition of government, nonprofit, and corporate partners to support Black-owned businesses in New York City.
Major partners of Together We Thrive include the New York Forward Loan Fund, Hester Street, Mobility Capital Finance (MoCaFi), Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, New York Immigration Coalition, and Perch Advisors. Together We Thrive will also be collaborating with Black Entrepreneurs NYC (BE NYC), an initiative of the New York City Department of Small Business Services, to provide resources and support to NYC’s Black businesses.
The Network’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) partners include LISC NYC and TruFund. Bank of America (BofA)—a long-standing corporate supporter of UWNYC for decades—has made a critical, early commitment of $500,000 to launch Together We Thrive’s work to provide technical assistance for businesses that need support to reopen. In addition, BofA will be activating their workforce to provide best-in-class volunteer support to Together We Thrive’s program participants. IBM will provide $200,000 in valuable seed funding for Together We Thrive, along with access to its innovative “SkillsBuild” (skillsbuild.org) career readiness and online learning platform, and the City of New York is expected to be an anchor investor, expanding their work initiated with BE NYC. Other corporate partners include Varde Partners and JPMorgan Chase, which will be providing entrepreneurial mentorship.
“Black businesses are key drivers of local neighborhood economies, and yet remain on the margins of the City’s economy—often not reached by traditional government or private support services or financing, nor equipped to take advantage of City, State, and Federal COVID relief support,” said Sheena Wright, President and CEO of United Way of New York City. “We are grateful to Bank of America for their standout investment, and commitment to a just and resilient recovery. Together We Thrive will strengthen Black-owned businesses, which is one of the keys to reducing racial wealth inequality and helping our neighborhoods achieve self-sufficiency.”
Black-owned businesses are currently facing what could be an extinction-level event. Black-owned businesses have been disproportionately devastated by the COVID-19 crisis due to historic discriminatory practices that have left them under-funded, less resilient, less likely to receive bank loans and more likely to be left out of government relief funding. From February 2020 to April 2020, the number of active Black business owners nationally dropped by 41% compared to 17% for white business owners, and in June 2020, the number of active Black business owners was still down by 19% despite initial rebounds. Additionally, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Paycheck Protection Program, the federal government’s program to support small businesses, left significant gaps for Black Businesses with the loans reaching only 20% of eligible firms in states with the highest densities of Black-owned firms.
In response to these challenges, United Way of New York City convened a coalition of nonprofit, corporate and government partners to meet the critical needs of Black-owned businesses in New York City. This diverse group of practitioners, funders, technical assistance providers and community economic development experts, diagnosed and designed a cooperative, actionable response plan to support Black-owned businesses, build their financial health, and to align, activate and increase the capacity of existing systems to meet the needs of Black entrepreneurs in New York City.
“We launched Black Entrepreneurs NYC (BE NYC) because we understand that Black business ownership is the key to closing the racial wealth gap,” said Jonnel Doris, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services. “We are thrilled to partner with Together We Thrive to amplify their efforts to provide greater access to capital, robust professional networks, and technical capacity building that will enable Black-owned businesses to survive and thrive in this pivotal moment. Together We Thrive will enable more Black-owned businesses to contribute to their communities and the overall recovery of New York City’s economy.”
Together We Thrive is rooted in UWNYC’s mission to help foster strong, self-sufficient communities in the city. Small businesses, especially Black-owned businesses, provide jobs to community residents along with goods and services that are both affordable and responsive to community needs. In the first-year, Together We Thrive will focus on five commercial corridors with high Black-owned business concentrations and populations throughout all five boroughs: Harlem & Washington Heights; Port Morris & South Bronx; Bedford Stuyvesant & Crown Heights; Jamaica & St Albans; and Stapleton/St. George. The intention is to create a system that is capable of scaling to the greater New York City area. At the time of this release, over two dozen businesses are already receiving technical assistance for reopening provided by Together We Thrive partners.
To address the issues and challenges that Black businesses face in New York City, Together We Thrive will enact a comprehensive Five-Point Platform to provide access to capital, networks and technical assistance to support their long-term survival, success and sustainability. The platform was created by a UWNYC-convened Black-Owned Business Working Group whose members include Hester Street, Mobility Capital Finance (MoCaFi), Greater Jamaica Development Corporation and Perch Advisors. Black-run Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) partnering with UWNYC as part of the coalition to support Black-owned businesses include the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) and TruFund. The Pace Small Business Development Center and the Columbia University Small Business Development Center will be providing technical assistance to help NYC Black-owned businesses prepare for reopening, as well as provide culturally relevant peer-to-peer mentorship to help address the specific challenges that Black-owned businesses face. New York Immigration Coalition will also be a partner to the coalition. To learn more about the objectives of Together We Thrive: Black Business Network, please click here.
For more information about Together We Thrive, visit https://www.togetherwethrivenyc.org/