Atlanta minority business leaders share 3 tips to raising capital – The Business Journals

Today is a good day to raise capital, said Ryan Wilson, founder and CEO of The Gathering Spot.  
What about the chances of a recession? That shouldn’t deter you, he said. 
“The entrepreneurs that make it through whatever this time period is called in the future, those are the ones that will have massive opportunities,” Wilson said during a panel at the Sept. 13 Minority-Owned Business Forum.  
High inflation and subsequent high interest rates are constricting the capital market, making it more difficult for entrepreneurs to raise money. But for business owners of color, that’s nothing new. Amid last year’s record amount of venture capital that poured into Atlanta startups, 12% went to Black founders, despite Atlanta’s diverse population demographics. 
When Wilson was looking for capital to grow The Gathering Spot, he heard “no” 97 times in a row. Since then, The Gathering Spot is now growing in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. The social networking club was acquired by Greenwood digital bank platform in May. 
“What I learned through those no’s was that we were on to something that the market couldn’t see,” Wilson said. 
Access to capital is constantly a struggle for minority business owners. Here are three tips for entrepreneurs and investors on how to make capital access more equitable.  
Using community resources
When Jerome Russell took over as president at H.J. Russell Co. from his father, the company was considering leasing its former headquarters in Downtown. But after Russell visited a small business incubator in New Orleans, Louisiana, he thought that would make a larger impact on the community.
That’s the origin story of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, a hub for Black-owned businesses. RICE, led by CEO Jay Bailey, has captured millions in corporate donations. It consolidates resources for Black entrepreneurs — helping with access to capital, networking and mentoring.  
“The real impact is going to climb as these businesses scale up,” Russell said during the panel. “That’s how we close the wealth gap.”  
The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce similarly brings together fragmented resources. For example, the chamber has a program that focuses on teaching small businesses how to get Fortune 500 and corporate customers, growing their revenue, said Veronica Maldonado-Torre, president of the chamber.  
Look for micro grants 
Sometimes, entrepreneurs don’t need much money to get them to the next stage of growth, Maldonado-Torre said. 
“Microgrants can go a long way,” Maldonado-Torre said. “We need to be thinking more about that.”  
Because of the historic difficulty in raising capital, minority-owned businesses are often accustomed to doing more with less, said Armond Davis, managing partner at The Paragon Group, which invests exclusively in founders of color and women.  
That means small amounts of money could go a long way. For example, Google has multiple funds focused on giving $100,000 grants to Black and Latino businesses.  
“By 2025, we’ll start to see dividends of investments in diverse founders we’ve seen over the last two years, which hopefully coincides with the recovery of the economy,” Joey Womack, founder of Goodie Nation, previously told Atlanta Inno. 
Not charity 
Wilson said investors need to remember one thing about putting money into minority-owned businesses: It’s not charity.  
“Investing in the types of businesses we’re talking about makes good business sense,” Wilson said. 
Davis said the principals of good investing prove that. Investors are supposed to look at underserved or underrepresented industries or communities, add value and increase their returns. 
Plus, Georgia is moving toward a majority-minority population, Wilson said.  
“We need to get serious about this work, because the numbers are telling us it’s in our best interest to do so,” Wilson said. 
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