Increasing the exposure and market access for Genesee County’s minority-owned small businesses is a key component of a resilient and vibrant local business community. That’s where the Flint & Genesee Business Bridge comes into play.
The Flint & Genesee Economic Alliance and I’m Building Something Consulting, LLC have partnered to create the online directory of Black, Indigenous and people of color-owned businesses in the area that will serve the interests of prospective vendors and clients/consumers alike. The project is funded with a $95,000 grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation.
“We know that people are interested in doing more business with minority-owned businesses but don’t always know where to look,” said Ebonie Gipson, project consultant and owner of I’m Building Something Consulting. “This is truly a collaborative effort.
“The Flint & Genesee Business Bridge is place for businesses to be seen and found.”
Gipson and Tracy Joseph, Economic Alliance business support manager, are currently reaching out to minority-owned businesses to encourage their participation in the online directory. Listing a business on the Flint & Genesee Business Bridge is free and a great way to grow connections.
“The Business Bridge also allows a business owner to connect with contracting leads and engage with other businesses through networking events and trainings,” said Tyler Rossmaessler, Economic Alliance executive director.
Businesses may register proactively at developflintandgenesee.org/business-bridge/.
“Small businesses are the building blocks of our neighborhoods and we heard residents when they told us support for small businesses is a priority,” said Raquel Thueme, president of the Ruth Mott Foundation. “The Flint & Genesee Business Bridge will help Black, Indigenous, and people of color-owned businesses get the resources and connections they need to thrive.”
Recruiting businesses is phase one of the initiative. Phase two entails promoting the availability of the online directory as a resource for purchasing directors and consumers.
Business Bridge also will dovetail with the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s StartUp Space, an online community of small business support organizations, service providers, localized resources and the makers, dreamers and do’ers that make up the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The tool will help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses owners find relevant, local resources that can support business growth.
Business Bridge is part of the Economic Alliance’s expanded entrepreneurial support system, which includes bolstering target marketing or “shop local” initiatives. It also is designed to help improve the long-term sustainability of small businesses.
The 2021 Genesee County Small Business Analysis, conducted by the Economic Alliance, found that 83 percent of minority-owned businesses in Genesee County are less than 15 years old. Over half of these companies are in their first five years of business. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 50 percent of small businesses nationally fail within their first five years.
In Genesee County, 67 percent of minority-owned business cease operations before their sixth year of business, making immediate support for new businesses especially critical. A strong foundation of resources, training, funding and support are needed for business owners in their first few years of operation to increase the number of businesses that are building long-term opportunity and wealth in the region.