Minority business owners often struggle with securing the funds needed to start companies that will become prosperous, but Concordia – an organization created to address these issues – wants to change the narrative.
Written by Karrington Garland | Photo by Jack Weaver
Chauncey Holloman Pettis made entrepreneurship a longstanding part of her life starting at age 15 when she opened Harlem Lyrics LLC – a company that sells greeting cards, school supplies and clothing. “Since then, entrepreneurship has been an incredible heart song of mine for women’s empowerment,” she says. Chauncey, who is also director of the Arkansas Women’s Business Center, prides herself on helping women of color master business ownership through the center’s programming and training. She believes business ownership is the gateway to generational wealth. “Generational wealth is the backbone of healthy relationships and healthy families…being able to pass down anything is extremely formative for the next generation,” she says.
Although racial minorities who live in low-income households typically have no monetary value on their homes due to redlining, she says, “your business is one thing we can independently grow, independently pour blood, sweat, and tears into and try to level that playing field.”
And she is building on her knowledge through utilizing nonprofit organizations like Concordia. The group, located in El Dorado, Arkansas, ensures that people of color find success as entrepreneurs through their talks and conferences held nationally. These events foster an inclusive and collaborative environment, where its members meet to solve and discuss how to overcome the barriers entrepreneurs of color face.
In April, Chauncey attended one of the organization’s annual summits in Lexington where she participated in a roundtable discussion on catalyzing support for Black, brown and Indigenous tech innovators. Aaron Slater, who led the conversation, is a member of the Navajo Nation and an officer of the U.S. Interior Indigenous Communities at MIT Solve — an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT Solve helps tech-based social entrepreneurs from around the world get funding and support for their innovations.
The organization has developed outreach programs which allow communities of color to design technologies that can advance workplace, health and racial equity. Communities of color often have difficulty finding support when trying to start a business, but like Chauncey, Aaron says these talks are needed, and he hopes it will spark change. “Spaces like these are necessary, especially when talking about topics such as race and how certain workforces can be more inclusive and supportive of people of color and those in the Indigenous community,” he says.