Let me start this post with a story about a teenager with grand plans to graduate high school, head off to college, take business classes and figure out how to create a successful business that would allow him to travel the world and experience as many cultures and regions as possible.  This remarkable fellow was an exchange student from Norway who lived with our family for a year while our son was a junior in high school.  In addition to his native Norwegian, he spoke excellent English and three other languages.  He worried that his parents would not approve of his entrepreneur goals.  His less ambitious plans, he worried, would disappoint his parents, who expected a high level of education from him.  They expected him to follow in the footsteps of his engineer older brother and older sister completing med school.

But he was spending the year with our family, where both my husband and I are entrepreneurs.  So, while we didn’t want to go against his parents’ wishes, we were certainly happy to have conversations with this high school junior about what was involved in getting a new business off the ground and what we loved about entrepreneurship in general. 

We were so pleased when he connected with us through Linked In while in college, to let us know he was working for a start-up in Oslo and felt that he was on his way to entrepreneurship.

Do you have a picture of our exchange student in your head?  Native born Norwegian, living outside of Oslo, able to take advantage of an exchange program in the U.S. where he ended up in Wisconsin with us (but “no offense”, he would have preferred California, “because Wisconsin isn’t all that different from Norway”) and then off to college with the support of his parents.

With that picture in your head, would it surprise you to hear that this student was the child of Pakistani Muslim immigrants?  That his father came to Norway at the age of 13 to escape war and poverty, and worked his way up from a cab driver to owning his own business with several cabs?   

Talha spoke to his parents frequently while he lived with us in Wisconsin.  They would continually tell him to say “Hi” to his “white parents” (us) because they only spoke Norwegian and Urdu, and we only spoke English, whereas Talha spoke all three fluently, along with some French, Spanish and Bosnian.  And we were honored that his parents trusted us to care for their son as if he was our own.

But here in small town Wisconsin, Talha stood out from the crowd.  His high school experience included kids accusing him of being a terrorist, based solely on the color of his skin.  He laughed it off, but it was always on his mind that he stood out based on his appearance.  When he came out to see us the summer after high school graduation, his mother told him to shave his beard before he got on a plane, “or people will think you’re a terrorist”.  Of course, we knew him as a bright outgoing kid who wanted to see the world and make a difference – and as a member of our family.

This experience, this kid, his story, his parent’s story, his goals, had a huge influence on my life and perspective.  Our time with Talha served as a lesson to me that skin color, religion, heritage, and all the things that make us seem different on the outside, are nothing compared to all we have in common on the inside. 

Now fast forward a few years to today.  Inequity combined with a pandemic has put our country in an untenable situation.  Research shows that black small business owners have been forced to shut down at twice the rate of white small business owners due to COVID-19.  Another study showed that three in ten Black and Latino business owners did not receive the amount of financial assistance they requested from the SBA programs such as PPP.

Why is that?  How does this sort of thing happen in 2020?  One study suggests that the PPP relied too heavily on major financial institutions, which have historically shut out minority business owners and women.

At the same time, studies have shown that companies with a more diverse make-up of employees have 19% higher revenues due to innovation.  Another study showed that companies with women and foreign nationals at the senior level performed better than companies with less diversity, and that Millennials seek out companies that emphasize diversity as part of their corporate culture.

And, of course, immigrants are nearly twice as likely as American born citizens to start a business in the United States.

But women, minorities and immigrants typically all struggle more so than their white male counterparts when it comes to starting a new business and funding a new business.  One report indicated that more than half of female start-ups had trouble accessing capital.  And black and Latinx entrepreneurs often struggle to find other entrepreneurs in their networks of friends and business associates, to serve as peers or mentors.

Clearly, we have a way to go before women, minorities and immigrants are able to participate more fully in the world of start-ups.  So what can existing entrepreneurs and supporting agencies do to help?

Consider some of these simple steps as a good starting point:

  • Promote: Actively support and promote businesses in your community that are owned by minorities, immigrants, and women.  Sharing these success stories in your community serves to celebrate those who have already had success. 
  • Network: Work harder to network with women, minority and immigrant business owners.  Many networking events in our town include the same groups of people everywhere you go.  Seek out the diversity where you can find it. 
  • Support: Seek out and support organizations devoted to creating start-up opportunity for women, people of color and rural residents, like Start Us Up, which focuses on providing equal access to the tools needed to start new businesses.

Remember that the more diverse a business or a community, the more innovative it is, which bodes well for all entrepreneurs!

 

Note:  The sad ending to our tale about our exchange student Talha is that he passed away at the age of 19 due to an undiagnosed heart condition following a case of food poisoning.  We will never get to see him follow his dream.  Our family has established a scholarship in his memory, with the goal of providing funds to students who seek to expand their horizons through travel, and we remain in touch with his family. 

 

 

It’s Lonely at the Top

It’s Lonely at the Top

Have you been feeling more isolated running your business this year? Consider some in person and online ways to connect with your fellow business owners.

How do you find your peers to aid in decision making? Or just to avoid feeling alone? Check out these three suggestions in the latest blog post!

Gratitude Attitude Year 3

Gratitude Attitude Year 3

As we approach Thanksgiving, take time to think about all of the people who have helped you grow your business over the years.

Let’s express some gratitude for our peers, supporters and mentors!

Who are you grateful for? Read more to help you reflect on your own entrepreneurial path!

Habit Forming

Habit Forming

How do you find the time to add good habits, like planning for your business, into your day? Form some new habits!

Personal + Business Connections

Personal + Business Connections

Small business owners do better when they help each other, but many in-person events haven’t gotten back to normal. Learn more about why these are connections so important!

From Origin to Opportunity

From Origin to Opportunity

Origin stories about entrepreneurs are great! But what about sticking with it? How do you continue to look for opportunity and innovate to stay in business?

Decision Overload

Decision Overload

Being an entrepreneur often comes with way too many decisions to make. Are you on decision overload? How can you lessen your load?

On Holiday

On Holiday

It’s time for a break from work! When was the last time you went ‘on holiday’ and gave yourself some downtime from your small business?

Your Legacy

Your Legacy

Whether you’re 20 or 70, it’s important to think about your legacy – and the vision you are setting for your business and personal life.

Talk to the experts!

Talk to the experts!

Tired of doing all the decision making for your small business? Want some help? Talk to the experts!

Find Your Community

Find Your Community

Are you a growth minded entrepreneur? Find your community to accelerate your growth and get the support you need to keep going!

Your Future Self Will Thank You

Your Future Self Will Thank You

What does the future of your small business look like? Imagine a successful future and let’s find ways to head in that direction together.

The Game is Rigged

The Game is Rigged

Spending money on digital marketing can feel like placing a bet on your business when the odds are not in your favor. What to do?

Welcome Great Resigners!

Welcome Great Resigners!

The Great Resignation has caused many former employees to become new entrepreneurs. As existing small business owners, we welcome our new start-ups to the world of entrepreneurship!

Channel Your Creativity

Channel Your Creativity

Planning for the future of your business? Look far enough ahead that you need to channel your creativity, even if you don’t consider yourself creative.

Going Viral

Going Viral

What can we learn from examples of things gone viral? Focus on the personal connection.

To Do List or Bust!?

To Do List or Bust!?

As we reflect on our accomplishments for the year, let’s talk about how we manage our To Do list.

Gratitude Attitude Year 3

Gratitude Attitude Redux

Who keeps you going as you work to constantly learn and grow as a business owner? This Thanksgiving, let’s express our gratitude for them!

The Three Ps of Small Business Growth

The Three Ps of Small Business Growth

Make sure you are taking advantage of the advantages small business owners have over their giant competitors. The 3 Ps of personalizing, pivoting and perceiving changes around us.

Planning with a Pestle

Planning with a Pestle

PESTLE is a tool to analyze what’s going on in the world around you that could impact your business. Is it time for you to give it a try?

She who hesitates is lost

She who hesitates is lost

Who holds you accountable to making progress in your business? It’s too easy to avoid difficult decisions and focus on the easy stuff.

Your New Goal: Less Juggling, More Controlling

Your New Goal: Less Juggling, More Controlling

Does it feel like you spend a lot of your workday dealing with issues and taking on stress, and not enough taking control and planning your path forward? Let’s focus together on what you can control and why it matters.

Your PERSONAL Advantage

Your PERSONAL Advantage

Let’s talk about some of the things that are great about owning a small business. The key: it’s all about personal connections!

My Startup Failure Story

My Startup Failure Story

The news is full of stories of unicorns and SPACs and VC-funded tech start-ups and failures – but what about the rest of us small business owners? Don’t forget about the everyday entrepreneurs. We have our own tales of success, and of failure. Here is mine: How I invested $25k and 2 years of my life and all I got for it was some tiny tape measures.

What’s the Point of Planning?

What’s the Point of Planning?

With all we’ve been through in the past year, it can be difficult to get enthusiastic about setting aside valuable time to plan for the future of your small business. But the future is coming whether or not you plan for it, so why not get to work looking for opportunity?

Who’s In Your Inner Circle?

Who’s In Your Inner Circle?

Do you have a diverse group of fellow business owners to turn to for advice, support or celebration? If not, it’s time to put that into place!

Don’t Fly Over Me!

Don’t Fly Over Me!

Why is all the funding for startups on the Coasts? Don’t forget all of the talent, creativity, experience and innovation here in the Midwest, better known as the Fly-over Zone!

Time to Channel Your Inner Bigwig?

Time to Channel Your Inner Bigwig?

Hey small business owners! Do you envy the executives in the giant soulless corporations and their fancy offices and benefits? What can we learn from these bigwigs about planning for success? And where do we have it better compared to them? Let’s talk big business.

Be Your Own Data Scientist

Be Your Own Data Scientist

Data collection and analysis is vital to the success of any business, large or small. What are some ways to improve your data analysis process without hiring a data scientist?

Farewell 2020!

Farewell 2020!

I’m sure we’re all ready to look ahead to a year that is not 2020! Consider skipping ahead ten years into the future, and then working backwards to plan for 2021.

Gratitude Attitude Year 3

Gratitude Attitude

Who helped you launch your business? Who keeps you going as you work to constantly learn and grow as a business owner? This Thanksgiving, it’s time to be grateful for our fellow small business owners and all those who support us in our ventures.

Follow Along

If you are enjoying reading what you see here, sign up to receive these posts directly in your email In Box.