by Special to the AFRO
By Larelle Clarke
Innovation drives me as an individual. I love being able to solve complex issues and bring new solutions to old problems. When I saw the opportunity to start my own business, FareXchange, a business-to-business delivery platform, I left my job of over ten years to embark on a new, exciting journey.
For the last four years, I’ve been proud to be a Black woman entrepreneur, contribute to my community and create something from the ground up. The road has not always been easy though.
As we move through Women’s History Month, I often think back on the unique challenges that Black women face- particularly Black women entrepreneurs.
I know that if anything is certain, it’s not the lack of inventiveness, resilience or tenacity that precludes Black women entrepreneurs from building successful, scalable businesses. Rather, it’s the lack of the network, mentorship, financial acumen, and, most importantly, capital that their White male counterparts can often rely on to grow their businesses.
We must recognize and acknowledge that for Black Americans- and particularly Black women like myself- the path to the American Dream remains an uphill battle.
Black women to this day face a 90 percent wealth gap when compared to white men. Black women are innovators, go-getters and untapped engines of economic growth. In the wake of the pandemic, Black women are leading our nation’s recovery by starting new businesses faster than any other demographic.
Investing in Black women will boost the American economy as a whole.
Black women are the first to face barriers when it comes to business ownership. Roughly 17 percent of new businesses are started by a Black woman, but only 3 percent eventually become mature businesses. This ultimately leads to Black women owning their own businesses at a rate 24 times lower than White men.
Moreover, 96 percent of Black businesses are run by sole proprietors, of which over half are run by Black women.
That’s why, as a Black woman, being an entrepreneur represents more than simply owning a small business and chasing the “American Dream.” It represents an opportunity to participate in an economic system that has the potential to equalize the playing field but has remained out-of-reach to women like me for far too long.
Reducing the wage gap for Black women has the potential to create between 1.2 to 1.7 million U.S. jobs and increase the GDP by $300 to $525 billion, ensuring that everyone- including our economy and Black women entrepreneurs- win.
When I first launched the idea of FareXchange, then called “Ditch the Wait,” I would often think I was not ready to turn my dream into a reality. That was until I had the opportunity to participate in Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program. There I was able to learn financial literacy, develop an understanding of how to promote and market my business and join a strong network of other small business owners that offer their expertise across industries.
Being able to access and utilize these resources gave me both the confidence and business acumen to ensure that my business will thrive and continue to grow.
Programs like Goldman Sachs’s new initiative, One Million Black Women: Black in Business, are critical first steps, but it is not up to just one company to grow Black women entrepreneurship- there must be a sustained, coordinated effort across the public and private sectors.
When Black women entrepreneurs are able to access information, resources, and capital, the sky becomes the limit. That is why we must uplift and invest in Black female entrepreneurs. America has an opportunity to not only begin to right its historical wrongs and build a better future for Black women but to generate economic growth across the board.
When Black women succeed, we all succeed. It’s about time we have a fair shot.
Larelle Clarke is the founder and owner of FareXchange (formerly Ditch the Wait) and an alumna of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses.
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