Programmatic Initiative

Business Starts and Growth

Living Cities Business Starts & Growth is a multi-year initiative designed to support leaders within the Closing the Gaps Cohort in advancing anti-racist solutions to bolster BIPOC business survivability and growth.


The State of BIPOC Business Ownership

Entrepreneurship, and the development of healthy businesses, is a mechanism for promoting economic growth, job creation and wealth building for people of color and an opportunity for local government leaders to build an environment that enables communities of color to survive, grow and thrive. However, as seen throughout the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of active business owners fell by 22%.

While the overall decline is noteworthy, differences among business closure rates across racial and ethnic groups are even more striking: 

  • Black businesses experienced the most acute decline, with a 41% drop.
  • Asian business owners dropped by 26%
  • Hispanic business owners fell by 32%
  • In contrast, the number of white business owners fell by 17%. 

Participating Cities

Increase Access to Capital

As part of our work to help Closing the Gaps Cohort cities shift anti-racist programs and policies, the Business Starts & Growth focus area was introduced in 2021 as a strategy to support city teams in increasing access to capital and assistance for businesses owned by people of color.

Participating Cities

  • Albuquerque, NM
    Office of Equity and Inclusion
  • Austin, TX
    Equity Office
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Memphis, TN
    Office of Business Diversity and Compliance
  • Rochester, NY
    Mayor's Office of Financial Empowerment, Office of Neighborhood and Business Development
  • Saint Paul, MN
    Office of Financial EmpowermentRochester Housing

The Results

Leveraging Our Expertise

By providing expert technical assistance, leveraging Living Cities expertise in the areas of ecosystem building and inclusive procurement, and deploying grants across cohort cities, the Business Starts & Growth Initiative has helped cities and their local partners design and advance the following data-driven solutions:

  • Invest in community-based business incubators to increase access to culturally responsive technical assistance for BIPOC business owners.
  • Support mixed use cooperative ownership models for young BIPOC entrepreneurs.
  • Enhance accessibility and navigation of existing city-led business development programs for BIPOC residents.
  • Invest in cultivation and pipeline development for BIPOC developers and general contractors.
  • Strengthen the Shared Ownership ecosystem for BIPOC business owners and employees.
  • Launch a Contractors University to support BIPOC contractors and maximize their opportunities to partner with city government.

This body of work is made possible by Citi Foundation. To learn more about the Business Starts & Growth initiative, our city-led strategies and intended impact, please contact Santiago Carrillo.

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