For the past decade, entrepreneurship has witnessed a remarkable surge, not confined to Detroit alone but echoing globally. During this transformative period, the acknowledgment of diversity and inclusion as fundamental drivers of innovation and economic advancement has gained considerable traction. In a concerted effort to promote diversity, Comerica Bank has teamed up with VentureHue to introduce the VentureHue ACCESS Lab.
This initiative stands as a proactive measure not only benefiting African and Caribbean entrepreneurs but also serving as a crucial endeavor within the broader framework of championing underrepresented groups, including immigrants and minorities.
Small businesses serve as the backbone of the U.S. economy, contributing significantly to job creation and economic growth. In recent years, the surge in entrepreneurship has been remarkable, with over 33 million small businesses in the U.S. accounting for more than 99% of all firms.
Access to capital emerges as a critical factor in the success of small businesses, particularly for those just starting. The significance of a good credit score cannot be overstated, yet traditional lending models often disadvantage those without an established credit history. Immigrants and refugees, facing these challenges along with economic uncertainties, find it increasingly difficult to access financial support through conventional means.
Similarly, a 2022 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that Black entrepreneurs are less likely to receive loans, face higher interest rates, and receive smaller loan amounts compared to their white counterparts.
VentureHue ACCESS Lab: A Transformative Solution:
The VentureHue ACCESS Lab emerges as a transformative solution to address the gaps faced by underrepresented entrepreneurs. Brittni Abiolu, the Founder & Managing Director at VentureHue, envisions the program as a catalyst for change. “It is my goal and hope that by educating the immigrants in this country (and ALL people of African descent) on how to get access to capital, we can increase the number of us who have the opportunity to build multi-million and billion-dollar companies and wealth that serves our communities globally.”
Abiolu’s passion for VentureHue is deeply rooted in a personal narrative. She reflects, “In 1984, my father left Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria, seeking education in the U.S. and a new life. A year later, after marrying my mother and welcoming me, his first daughter. This is when he realized he had a much bigger purpose in life! Over the course of our lives, he has worked many jobs and ran several businesses.
All of his businesses reached a mediocre level of success. It was nowhere near the level of success it could have been. Back then, he didn’t have access to (or know about) the resources available to help propel his business into the stratosphere. Capital was one of those resources.”
The 6-week virtual accelerator is strategically designed to educate entrepreneurs on capital readiness, covering essential topics such as debt and equity financing, product-market fit, gaining traction, building business credit, and finding grants. By focusing on these crucial aspects, the program equips participants with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the complex landscape of funding.
Why Programs Like ACCESS Lab Matter:
Addressing Disparities in Funding: With statistics highlighting the disparities in funding for immigrants and minority entrepreneurs, programs like ACCESS Lab play a pivotal role in leveling the playing field. The knowledge imparted in these sessions empowers entrepreneurs to navigate financial landscapes effectively, increasing their chances of securing funding.
Fostering Inclusivity: The traditional venture capital landscape often lacks diversity, resulting in a limited range of perspectives and ideas. Initiatives like ACCESS Lab actively work towards fostering inclusivity, ensuring a more diverse representation in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Creating Economic Impact: Empowering underrepresented entrepreneurs doesn’t just benefit the individuals involved but has a broader economic impact. Diverse businesses contribute to job creation, innovation, and economic growth. A study by McKinsey & Company found that ethnically diverse companies are 36% more likely to outperform their counterparts in terms of profitability.
In 2019, immigrant entrepreneurs constituted 21.7% of all business owners in the U.S., surpassing their representation in the overall population of 13.6%. Refugees, a subset of this group, contribute significantly to the nation’s economic activity. According to the New American Economy report, refugee-owned businesses generated $4.6 billion in income in 2015, showcasing their substantial economic impact.
Building Stronger Communities: The success of diverse entrepreneurs creates a ripple effect, positively impacting their communities. By providing education and support through programs like ACCESS Lab, there is an opportunity to build stronger, more resilient communities that thrive on the success of local businesses.
The Role of Comerica Bank:
Comerica Bank’s involvement in the ACCESS Lab program, facilitated by the Comerica Charitable Foundation, underscores a steadfast commitment to nurturing diversity and inclusion within the entrepreneurial sphere. Notably, professionals specializing in business finance from Comerica Bank will actively engage in the program, offering invaluable insights and information. This partnership goes beyond mere financial backing, serving as a tangible demonstration of Comerica Bank’s dedication to shaping a more inclusive and diverse entrepreneurial environment.
Apart from the structured curriculum, one of the unique features of ACCESS Lab is the provision of six free one-on-one sessions for successful participants with the class instructor. Mentorship and personalized guidance are crucial elements in the entrepreneurial journey, especially for those who have historically faced barriers.
Application and Deadline:
Applications for the program are currently open, with a deadline set for Friday, March 22, 2024. Accepted applicants will be announced by April 5, 2024, and the accelerator is scheduled to commence on Thursday, April 18, 2024. To provide more information and answer questions, information sessions are held every Friday in February 2024.
Programs like VentureHue ACCESS Lab are not just about educating entrepreneurs; they are about reshaping the narrative of entrepreneurship. As we collectively strive for a more inclusive and diverse entrepreneurial landscape, initiatives like ACCESS Lab illuminate the path forward, one entrepreneur at a time. Abiolu Says that the program will change lives. “We all want the opportunity to live the American dream no matter where we come from. I designed the VentureHue Access Lab program to help with that.”