AEO and Associated Black Charities Host Successful Small Business Forum

July 20, 2017

Washington, D.C. — The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) and Associated Black Charities together hosted their first roundtable connecting Black and Hispanic small business owners with members of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) staff under the new administration, on Thursday, July 13. The event, “Inclusive Entrepreneurship: Untapped Opportunities for Success,” gave business owners a forum to share their concerns, challenges, and requirements for success with both local Baltimore and federal officials.   

In its report funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and released by AEO earlier this year, The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America: Untapped Opportunities for Success,the DC-based nonprofit identified the interplay of the wealth gap, the credit gap and the trust gap among Black entrepreneurs and its impact on the growth of Black-owned businesses. The goal of the recent roundtable was to hear from business owners themselves regarding what they need to be successful, both from the SBA and from organizations such as AEO, which supports the development of effective microbusiness initiatives to assist entrepreneurs.    

“Black and Hispanic-owned businesses are growing every year and it is in the interest of everyone who values a strong American economy that they be supported in that growth,” said AEO President and CEO Connie Evans. “When a small business owner says they have orders worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that they can’t fill due to a lack of access to traditional credit, there’s something wrong. We need to remove obstacles for emerging entrepreneurs so that they can unleash their full potential.” 

“Black and Brown people are not broken,” said Diane Bell-McKoy, president and CEO of Associated Black Charities. “There is outstanding talent in this community, and it was powerful to listen to business owners discuss not only their challenges but also the amazing opportunities they are creating each day. Entrepreneurs are the vehicle for closing the country’s racial wealth gap, and it is imperative that we hear their voices and take action.”  

Among the issues discussed at the roundtable were how the small business owners found capital to start their businesses, where they go to for trusted technical and professional assistance, and what their potential was for growth. Many business owners shared the challenges they face and how they work to overcome them, as well as what works and doesn’t work with regards to their own access to capital. Baltimore City Councilman Leon Pinkett, III gave opening remarks.    

“Seven out of 10 new jobs are coming out of small businesses,” said William Manger, associate administrator of the Office of Capital Access at the SBA. “People don’t want to be an employee all their lives. It was an honor to be present and have people share their stories and what they need to be even more successful. The SBA is committed to helping entrepreneurs launch and grow the businesses that form the backbone of this country’s economic strength.”


About Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO)
The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) is the voice of innovation in microbusiness and microfinance in the United States. For 26 years, AEO and its more than 450 member/partner organizations have helped millions of entrepreneurs contribute to economic growth while supporting themselves, their families and their communities. AEO members and partners include a broad range of organizations that provide capital and services to assist underserved entrepreneurs in starting, stabilizing and expanding their businesses. Together, we are working to change the way that capital and services flow to underserved entrepreneurs so that they can create jobs and opportunities for all. Learn more about The Association for Enterprise Opportunity at

CONTACT: Marissa Hermo, 201-962-5983,

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