Whitley Yates: Planting seeds to support small businesses

  • Comments
  • Print

“Where money flows attention goes” is a saying I like to live by.

You can tell a lot about a company, administration or institution by taking an extensive look at where it spends its funds and directs its resources. Data suggests that access to capital, specifically for Black entrepreneurs, is a key obstacle in growing and scaling our business. A 2016 study by Bates and Robb found that higher rates of rejection and lower loan amounts typified lending to Black and Hispanic-owned minority business enterprises.

This month, Katina Washington, architect of the wildly successful SHE Event and SHE Xperience—a department store composed of many different black businesses inside of Circle Center Mall—hosted a Seeds of Growth event sponsored by Huntington Bank. The purpose of the event was to connect under-resourced small businesses with capital and corporate banking connections to help grow their capacity. Outside of immense networking, there was a marketplace where you were given $40 worth of “seeds” to spend with the different businesses.

Huntington had top-level commercial and business bankers providing information on the necessary steps and documents needed to show viability and lendability to gain access to capital. This initiative was sponsored by Huntington’s “Lift Local Business” program, which is curated to support minority-, woman- and veteran-owned small businesses throughout every phase of the business life cycle. It was a great opportunity to learn about resources that cater to expanding niche business demographics.

How can we consistently cultivate a culture of support for small MBEs so that these types of events are not happening just once a year but are prevalent throughout the year?

While communities of color are still feeling the impacts of COVID-19—not just on our physical health but also on our businesses—we need more events and tangible resources to mitigate the current conditions.

I have made intentional steps to make sure I am not only an advocate but a conduit for Black businesses looking for resources by sitting on the board of the Indianapolis Black Chamber of Commerce. The same issues and disparities that exist for Black businesses are also present for institutions like the Indy Black Chamber, which is looking for true change agents to make investments in these areas.

To create a systemic shift, the business community must take sincere steps of intentional investments with entities that have spent years dedicated to this area of change. While proclamations of support for minority business enterprises are laudable, real resonance will be adjudicated by seeds planted and harvest reaped from tangible actions.•


Yates is director of diversity for the Indiana Republican Party, a political commentator and a law degree candidate.

Click here for more Forefront columns.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.