Guest Commentator: Monique Greenwood, CEO, Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns @MoniqueAkwaaba

According to Pew’s State of the City report, less than 1 out of 4 businesses in Philadelphia are minority-owned. Why is it beneficial to our regional business community to increase that number?

As a Black woman and owner of a business with sales topping a million dollars, I’m an oddity in the Philadelphia region, and that’s a shame.

Like all entrepreneurs, I started Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns to create economic opportunity for my family and community — and innovation for present and future generations. In fact, as a Black woman, I’m part of the fastest-growing subset of entrepreneurs in the country, according to the latest US Census. But in Philadelphia, less than 1 out of 4 businesses are owned by a minority of any kind — according to the 2019 Pew Report from the national trust that offers evidence-based, non-partisan analysis to solve today’s challenges.

With a less diverse group of business owners, Philadelphia will continue to languish behind other large cities when it comes to shared prosperity for all of its residents. As revealed in the Chamber’s recently released Defining Growth for Philadelphia study, among the nation’s nine largest cities, the City of Brotherly Love made the least progress in reducing its share of population in poverty. And our poverty rate remains the highest of all, with 25.8% of our brethren considered poor in 2017.

We can and must do better. Successful minority-owned businesses are the way.

It’s no secret that entrepreneurs are in a unique position to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and help determine their economic destiny; most of the nation’s wealthiest people are business owners. Furthermore, when the leadership of a business is diverse, its workforce is more likely to be. Business ownership could truly mean liberty and opportunity for all.

Encouraging business startups among minorities, especially in the neighborhoods where we live, and empowering those already in it to win it, is going to take all hands on deck. Elected officials, NGOs, community and business leaders, and educators all have a part to play. Who will teach minority youth the basics of how money works? Who will mentor newly-minted minority business owners? Who will help an aspiring, immigrant business owner plow through the paperwork needed to set up shop in the city? Who will introduce a fledgling business owner with no personal connections to the potential client that could be a gamechanger on their bottom line?  Who will turn to innovative methods for measuring the creditworthiness of a passionate founder with a brilliant idea? Who will make supplier diversity part of its corporation’s DNA? Who will pass policy to protect the small business owner and create a pathway to growth?

I challenge anyone and all who can make a difference to do so. Here’s what I know will happen in return: Minorities will continue to push the entrepreneurial envelope to launch meaningful enterprises and make a better way for themselves, their communities, and our country as a whole. When we hear the word “no,” we will swallow it (and sometimes our pride), like a vitamin, allowing it to make us stronger, so we bounce back with new strategies and new resolve. And in the end, we will all be better for it. Let’s get busy.

The Chamber positions diversity and inclusion as critical for business maturation and growth. Our Diversity & Inclusion Initiative (D&I) drives economic competitiveness and highlights diverse employee populations that are underrepresented in the region.