Entrepreneurs come in all different shapes and sizes, colours and genders. But really, in the business world, none of this should matter. What a person looks like should not affect their ability to start a business. Unfortunately, it does. Every day in North America people lose funding or get turned down to start a business of their very own all because of the way they look. This group of underrepresented entrepreneurs have been missing out on opportunities that are out of their control for centuries.
After the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, these businesses took an even bigger hit and many of them were forced to close their doors. Now that the pandemic is mostly over, we can take this time to appreciate and celebrate these hard-working individuals who fought against discrimination, underrepresentation, and adversity to get to where they are today. Here we are going to be talking about underrepresented entrepreneurs, why they are underrepresented, and how to look past our personal biases to give them the recognition they deserve. Because it should not matter what you look like, only the work you put in.
The main underrepresented groups are women, people of colour, and women of colour. These groups have been constantly underrepresented within the business world for decades and continue to remain forgotten. Whether it be excluding them from sitting on boards or networking events, or simply not allowing them to start their businesses to begin with, these groups have been constantly looked over.
You then must ask yourself, why? Why are these groups being turned over and forgotten about? Do they not put in the work? Are they not trying hard enough? The answer is no. It is because of the way they look or where they come from. People have an inherent bias to want people that look like them to succeed. So, when a black woman or a Latino man walk into an office of white men and ask to start a business, they are often declined. Because of our inherent biases, our built-in prejudices, we assume that these people are incapable of being good business owners, even if they are. It does not matter how hard they work or how much effort they put in if they are simply going to be stopped at every turn.
Women, people of colour, and women of colour all deserve to have a place in our communities as entrepreneurs. They all deserve to be represented within the business community and within their industries. This is why we need to talk about them, bring attention to them, and recognize the work that they have put in to be here.
Access to Funding
One of the main reasons so many people from underrepresented groups have a hard time starting their own businesses is because of a lack of access to funding. Every entrepreneur needs to get a jump start in their funds in order for their business to begin to take off. The issue is then that these groups have a hard time finding or gaining access to funds to help them launch.
The first option for many people is do what is called the “friends and family round”. Where they go around to friends and family asking for small loans or donations to help them start their companies. However, the main issues for many of these groups is that their friends and family are unable to help them. Because many of these groups come from areas of poverty, their families have no money to spare in order to help. This then leaves them in a position of either giving up their dream or coming up with the money in other ways.
After they strike out with their friends and family, they then begin to turn to other forms of getting loans like banks or investors. However, the issue is that they are often get turned down by banks and investors because of their race, gender, or socio-economic background. These people assume that because of the colour of their skin or their gender that their business will not do well. This is a major setback for many people trying to start a business.
Bankers and investors want to give money to businesses they know will succeed otherwise it would be a waste. Because of their natural biases, whether consciously or unconsciously, they want to invest in people that look like them, which is often white men. They can see themselves in these people and therefore want them to succeed and believe they will. On the other hand, they see a woman or a black man and assume they will fail. This then in turns causes many people from underrepresented groups to lose out on funding opportunities.
Access to funding has prevented a lot of people from being able to start their own business. As such they have been chronically underrepresented and will continue to be if this continues to happen.
If these groups can attain funding or make it past the initial jump-starting phase, they then encounter another problem. Trying to network. After you start a company, you need to begin to build connections with others in your industry. This will help you get word out about your brand, potentially start partnerships, and allow you to get acquainted with the industry.
However, many underrepresented entrepreneurs have a hard time building these connections. Because they have been and continue to be underrepresented, they are not typically invited or represented at most networking events. Even if they do manage to be invited to one, they have a harder time building relationships with others in their industry because of who they are. Once again people have personal biases and want to work with people like themselves. When you do not look like them it can be hard to get them to trust you.
Thankfully after the pandemic, more and more people are looking into working with underrepresented entrepreneurs. This has opened many doors for people and have allowed them to kick start their business.
Due to their underrepresentation, these groups have had to find new and creative ways to market themselves and their businesses. To stand out from white owned and man owned businesses, they have begun to take a new approach to marketing.
Avoiding simply using traditional marketing tactics, such as newspapers, flyers, and ads. They have begun to appeal to the younger generation who are more likely to buy from them. Using social media, blogs, websites, and virtual ads on google and other webpages, they have branched out further than ever before. Taking advantage of the “Buy Black” movement during the pandemic and the boom to support local and small business. These underrepresented groups have started new marketing campaigns to gain access to the groups they know will buy from them.
The pandemic caused a lot of small business to go under and take a big hit in their industries as people were no longer buying from smaller companies. However, this opened the doors for many underrepresented entrepreneurs, as it allowed them to use things such as the workers benefit or government relief to their advantage. Many people waited for it and then put it back into their businesses, or used to kick start their business because they could not get any other funding.
The pandemic also brought with it many movements for equality. Asking questions, like why are we not buying local? Why are we supporting large brands like Amazon? Why are we not buying from black, Asian, Latino, or female-owned businesses? It allowed many underrepresented entrepreneurs and businesses to finally take the spotlight and shine. It has also created more employment opportunities and investment opportunities for people in all kinds of different industries.
Despite the increasing representation for many previously underrepresented groups, we still have a long way to go before we see everyone as equal. From here we must begin to remove our personal biases. It does not matter what the colour of your skin is, what gender you are, or what your sexual orientation is everyone has biases. Removing those biases is the only way everyone is going to be truly equal.
Removing bias can be a very challenging thing and can require a lot of hard work, however, it can be done. Before you chose to go somewhere else to shop, or invest in a different company, think about why. Why am I shopping at a [insert race] owned business instead of [insert race] owned one? Why am I buying from a [insert race] man but not a [insert race] woman? Why am I not shopping at small businesses? All these questions can help us break down our personal biases and move past them and into a better future.
Underrepresented entrepreneurs deserve to be recognized and appreciated for all the hard work they have put in to get to where they are today. They have challenges at every turn and yet they are still fighting to get what they want. Even when they have been declined funding, refused networking opportunities, or faced marketing challenges, they have still gotten back up and tried again.