The Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) at California State University San Bernardino received a $200,000 grant to help underserved Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) businesses in the inland Southern California region impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grant from Bank of America will go toward funding three new programs for minority entrepreneurs designed to help the region’s small businesses recover from and prepare for any future economic challenges. IECE estimates they will be able to help approximately 250 business owners — a majority of which are BIPOC — to create or sustain about 650 jobs and create an economic impact of nearly $4 million.
“BIPOC small businesses are among the fastest growing segment of our local economy but were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The support of the Bank of America Foundation is incredibly well-timed, as the resources will be utilized to help these businesses rebuild and respond to new market opportunities,” said Michael Stull, program director of the IECE, director of the CSUSB School of Entrepreneurship and a CSUSB professor of entrepreneurship. “As the largest provider of entrepreneurial support services in the Inland Empire, we are excited to have this opportunity to deliver programs that will help build a more resilient and successful small business community.”
Small businesses (those employing less than 100 people) make up approximately 97% of total businesses in the region (over 74,000 businesses) and are a critical component of the Inland Empire economy. Those businesses have been the most at risk since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Given the high concentration of small businesses in the region that are in the service, retail and tourism industries, and that 81% of jobs in these industries were deemed ‘non-essential,’ these small businesses have been particularly hard hit due to required closures and the constant changing regulations during the pandemic,” said Stull. “Local small businesses have been most at risk in terms of resources and expertise to navigate the challenges. The economic consequences are dire without any lifeline to support them in dealing with the ongoing challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.”
During the initial stages of the pandemic, the IECE concentrated on helping small business owners with applications for federal and state loans, employee retention and access to other COVID-related resources, Stull said.
“Simply put, we were trying to help these small businesses weather the storm and keep their doors open, every step of the way,” Stull said.
To help these businesses recover and move forward, the center will create three programs to help existing business owners – particularly minority-owned firms – recover from the pandemic and build sustainable resilience to navigate and survive future economic challenges.