There is perhaps no better place the soul of Memphis is truly embodied than in the hearts and minds of our innovators and creators, especially entrepreneurs. Indeed, Memphis has become a booming expanse for young entrepreneurs, new startups, entrepreneurial groups and business resources, and the entrepreneurial circle in Memphis is young, talented and driven. Here in Memphis, there’s an emphasis on entrepreneurs of color and women entrepreneurs, and a community-wide commitment to help such entrepreneurs succeed. As a result, Fast Company magazine named Memphis the No. 1 city in the U.S. for black-owned businesses in 2018.

Being an entrepreneur is a challenging and competitive career path, as becoming a business owner—especially as a minority business owner—is no small feat. From overcoming barriers to entry to managing finances, there are plenty of obstacles along the way . You’ll learn quickly that an entrepreneurial road can be a lonely one, and not everyone will agree with your mindset. Some people may even think your ambitions are crazy! With this in mind, it is essential to have the right resources at your disposal.

Minority Business Initiative in Memphis

Enter the 800 Initiative to empower minority-owned and -operated businesses. The program targets the 800+ African American-owned businesses in Memphis that are between the startup and full-scale phases, and the program goal is geared specifically towards assisting minority businesses and increasing  equity within Memphis economy. The goal is to increase local minority-owned business revenue by $50 million by the year 2023. Some of the services, tools and resources for entrepreneurs through the 800 Initiative program include:

  • Business coaching
  • Technical assistance
  • Access to loans and grants
  • Education

Building upon the $500,000 provision from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s budget to kickstart the 800 Initiative, major companies have made financial commitments to the program. These include a four-year, $1 million commitment by FedEx and leading corporate partners Epicenter, Christian Brothers University and Start Co. The program is hosted by the Office of Business Diversity & Compliance at the Universal Life building and will be spearheaded by Start Co., with more companies added as resources in later stages of the program. Moreover, Christian Brothers University is soon launching the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which will offer educational courses in entrepreneurship, learning credits and job training for students.

This program is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of adding necessary resources and tools for minority entrepreneurs, a cause near and dear to many Memphians within the business community. Within the first fiscal year of his term, the mayor was able to increase the amount of contracting dollars given to minority-driven businesses by 12 percent, reaching a total of 21 percent. There is still much work to be done, however, as a recent disparity study showed that over 90 percent of the $36.5 billion generated by privately owned, Memphis-based businesses is produced by white-owned enterprises. The 800 Initiative offers the power to change those numbers and level the playing field for minority-owned businesses.

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