Business Bridge aims to boost minority-owned businesses

FLINT, Michigan — A new business database is in the process of being built by the Flint & Genesee Economic Alliance. The goal is to bridge the gap between minority entrepreneurs/minority-owned small businesses and larger organizations/community members seeking to do business with minority-owned businesses.

Funded from a $95,000 grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation, the Flint & Genesee Business Bridge aims to increase exposure and market access for Genesee County’s minority-owned small businesses. The project, also in partnership with I’m Building Something Consulting, LLC, hopes to encourage local spending, which is an integral part of a vibrant community.

Executive Director of the Flint & Genesee Economic Alliance Tyler Rossmaessler said the idea for the online directory of Black, Indigenous, and people of color-owned local businesses came about from survey results. 

“We did a small business survey in Genesee County, and we learned a lot about the small business community,” he said. “We learned, for example, that the majority of our entrepreneurs and small business owners were people who identified as a minority. That is in a county that’s nearly 70% white, which is kind of interesting right there.”

The 2021 Genesee County Small Business Analysis found that 83% of minority-owned businesses in Genesee County are less than 15 years old, and over half of them are companies less than five years old. Statistics show that about half of all small businesses fail within their first five years. In Genesee County, 67% of minority-owned businesses cease operations before year six of business.

The survey also provided data that proved that many small businesses were seeking access to capital, which Rossmaessler said is crucial for businesses of all types. “Access to contract is a really important way to secure that access to capital,” he said. 

In a time when many workplaces and business practices have adopted a more rigorous and all-encompassing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, there’s been an increase in vendors seeking out diverse clients and consumers alike.

“We heard from a lot of more institutional buyers in our community that they wanted to increase their spend with minority-owned businesses,” he said. “We thought, ‘what can we do to connect these two groups – the small business owners/entrepreneurs in our community and these more established organizations/entities that have contracting opportunities?’”

Currently, Business Bridge is being developed, to be launched later this year. “Right now, we’re asking companies to sign up and identify themselves. We are going to transpose that data into an online software,” Rossmaessler said. “When that’s fully written and complete, that will be rolled out towards the end of the summer. That will be the actual tool that will be searchable and used to facilitate the connections.”

Rossmaessler said the major benefit to a business for signing up is the free networking and traction through the database. “On the other side, companies that want to do a more intentional job with how they’re using their spending dollars to support the community to make sure their dollars are being deployed in communities of color, then Business Bridge will be a helpful tool as well,” he said. 

To learn more about Flint & Genesee Business Bridge, visit the website and find them on Facebook.

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.