Washington, D.C. — The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), a non-profit membership organization dedicated to supporting the success of microbusinesses in the United States, today announced that it has received a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in the amount of $1,150,000. The grant will be used to develop and launch fresh solutions that include new programs, products, services and delivery models designed to simultaneously address the three most prohibitive barriers faced by Black business owners. 

Detailed in the report released by AEO last March, “The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America: Untapped Opportunities for Success,” researchers found that Black Americans face three persistent barriers that hinder the establishment and success of Black-owned businesses. These three barriers are: a Wealth Gap, fewer assets and less disposable income to invest in business; a Credit Gap, decreased access to formal credit and high denial rates; and a Trust Gap, institutional bias experienced by Black people that inhibits them from taking actions such as applying for more capital, joining networks, creating valuable partnerships and more. 

“We don’t just want Black-owned businesses to survive, we want them to thrive,” said AEO President and CEO Connie Evans. “We have a real problem with wealth inequality in America, and entrepreneurship has proven to be a powerful solution. According to our findings, the discrepancy in average wealth between White and Black Americans is reduced from a multiplier of 13 to 3 when you are comparing business owners. The median net worth of a Black business owner is 12 times that of a Black non-business owner. Imagine what would happen to the wealth gap if Black business owners had access to products and services that worked for them instead of against them. Our goal with this generous grant is to collaborate with industry partners to develop solutions for Black business owners, and we are grateful to the Kellogg Foundation for this momentous opportunity.”   

With the new funding, AEO will work with industry thought leaders, Black small business owners, business service providers and community-based lenders known as CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions) to develop trusted technical assistance programs. These programs will be designed specifically to help Black-owned firms grow and create jobs in low-income communities, using scalable and technology-centric solutions. Once established, the organization will introduce the model into multiple communities throughout the country over the three-year grant period.

“The Kellogg Foundation funded AEO’s report on Black business ownership last year because we knew it was imperative to understand what Black business owners need in order to stabilize and grow their entrepreneurial endeavors,” said Carla Thompson Payton, vice president for program strategy at the Kellogg Foundation. “We are excited to be part of this initiative, which will help reduce the economic vulnerability of young children by providing income-earning and wealth-building opportunities for their parents through business ownership. AEO has the trusted relationships and track record for managing data-driven innovation projects essential to a collaboration of this kind, and we look forward to seeing the impact of this new program on underserved communities.” 

AEO and its partner organizations are committed to helping individuals start, stabilize and grow their businesses. The association will host its 2018 National Microbusiness Conference: Moving Main Street Forward in Detroit, MI, on April 30 – May 2. Microfinance practitioners, advocates, policymakers, small business advisors, educators, funders, investors, fintech influentials and entrepreneurs will come together for three days to collaborate on ways to support Main Street and microbusiness owners through inclusion, innovation and investment. For more information, please visit www.microbusinessconference.org.

About Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO)

The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) is the voice of innovation in microbusiness and microfinance in the United States. Since 1991, AEO and its member and partner organizations have helped millions of entrepreneurs contribute to economic growth while supporting themselves, their families and their communities. AEO members and partners include a broad range of organizations that provide capital and services to assist underserved entrepreneurs in starting, stabilizing and expanding their businesses. Together, we are working to change the way that capital and services flow to underserved entrepreneurs so that they can create jobs and opportunities for all. Learn more about the Association for Enterprise Opportunity at www.aeoworks.org.

About W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. 

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org

AEO MEDIA CONTACT: Marissa Hermo, 201.962.5983, [email protected]