One of the biggest hurdles for Black small business owners is access to resources for growth and scale. Strategic Partnerships can be help small businesses in this department. When searching for community small resources to accelerate your small business growth, it’s important to identify the types of partnerships that can help drive current and future business success—and make those a part of your search criteria.
For example, HLVP leveraged relationships with national wholesale chains, educational institutions, and a retail marketplace to create new business pathways for local business owners. These relationships were positioned as partnerships where local food & beverage entrepreneurs could learn to optimize business operations, transition from home to commercial production, and eventually gain wholesale distribution.
Strategic partnerships can create opportunities for scale, pipelines to procurement opportunities, and access to industry information not accessible to the general public. In my conversation with Nikoa, she outlines how strategic partnerships are especially beneficial for small businesses who are not quite in a position to access the lending capital needed for this type of growth.
Karl: How exactly does an organization like HLVP help its small business clients?
Nikoa: We ask the question: What does it take to be national grocer ready? Having a national partner at the table was gold; being in their stores opens other doors for suppliers.
Many did not know what it meant to truly be a manufacturing business. When we met with Whole Foods, they identified the components needed. Then we established a relationship with a commercial kitchen, which helped transition suppliers’ production out of their homes.
Columbia University Business School brought in the education piece – business management, finance, operations, marketing, and packaging. They have a professor who is world renowned for advising manufacturers on scaling and positioning their businesses. He became the key instructor.
To bridge the gap from home-based to full manufacturer, we started to produce vendor fairs so they could refine their plans, sample, improve their brand presentations, and design booths for in-store demos, making them more purposeful. We also partnered with a national retail chain’s visual merchandising division to teach vendors design for booths and marketing at retail.
The challenges for Black-owned businesses in the manufacturing space are greater than in the storefront retail. The funding is limited, and a lot of the incubator programs are expensive. These are tiny businesses who are doing maybe $20k in sales, so getting loans and the needed small business resources is hard – including Paycheck Protection Program funds and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
Also, getting to a buyer is hard – it is not just the capital, but access to the buyer community. If you have direct access to the procurement side you are good, but that’s the hard part. HLVP has created a relationship of trust where we can endorse businesses and get them through to buyers.