Last week, I highlighted the Matthew 25 challenge and ways folks are experimenting around the edges of social enterprise and economic development. I think these are incredible ways to dip your toe in the water and see what comes from this kind of work. There are many paths to engaging this work that don’t include starting a business. Today, I want to consider another such path.
In almost any community, statistics say, right around 10% of the population are entrepreneurs. We’d suggest that the percentage of any population that are born entrepreneurs is roughly the same irrespective of context. That means that in your community 1 out of 10 is a budding business owner. In MANY contexts I’ve worked with, entrepreneurs find themselves in need of many things; access to capital, community of support, business training, and networks of potential partners and collaborators. In economically challenged communities, the kinds of places we argue are most critical for us to consider when thinking about enterprise and economic development because of the generations of disinvestment and unjust economic practices that help to create these dynamics, those needs are harder to find solutions to for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Here’s where your team can help. Perhaps you could host—or even get certified to lead—small business training programs like Co-Starters or Starting Up Now. These programs are great ways to support a group of entrepreneurs. If you have 10 new businesses in development through a class like this, then you have increased your impact 10 fold compared to the 1 business your team might have started on its own.
Or, if you are able, you might consider raising a community entrepreneur fund, or look for comparable ways to support business start ups as they look for capital. Pastor Alex Gee of Fountain of Life church in Madison, WI leads such a project through their Nehemiah Project initiative.
The BEST way to determine what local entrepreneurs from economically challenged neighborhoods need to is know them and ask them and then collaborate to overcome obstacles and make the most of the opportunities presented.
There are plenty of ways to engage this work without starting a business. In some cases, it might even be the right choice, not just a necessary one. We’d love to talk more with you about this!