Women, Minority Entrepreneurs Fill Revived Small Business Panel

The Small Business Administration relaunched an advisory committee Tuesday intended to help the agency be more equitable and inclusive as the face of entrepreneurship features more women and people of color.

The Council on Underserved Communities will make recommendations to the SBA and Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman in an attempt to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs and address barriers that underserved small businesses face, upholding the White House’s equity priorities.

The council is being reconvened after being disbanded during the Trump administration.

Re-launching the committee gives the SBA an opportunity to ensure that it reflects the changing face of business owners. Minority-owned businesses grew to 1.1 million in 2020, women-owned businesses have increased to 1.2 million, and veterans owned another 331,151, according to the Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey.

The council is made up of a pool of diverse small business owners, community leaders, and advocates who represent those in the most marginalized groups, including women, communities of color, and the LGBTQ. John W. Rogers Jr., chairman and Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, LLC, will serve as the chairman.

“We’re gathering a diverse group of individuals to really focus on our underserved communities—so, that’s women and people of color, as well as our veterans and low-income and rural communities, just to try to make sure that we have a good understanding and a touch point within those communities to better create programs, implement programs, do effective outreach on those programs so that we can better serve and meet businesses where they are,” Guzman told Bloomberg Law in an interview.

Previously, SBA launched a $100 million program, the Community Navigator Pilot Program, which will provide funding to 51 organizations to work with over 400 local groups to help small businesses, including those owned by veterans, women, and those from rural communities and communities of color, get financial assistance and access to capital.

Guzman added that the previous council made recommendations that the SBA adopted, including ways to make sure that small business contractors were paid quickly.

“Small and minority-owned businesses have faced extraordinary challenges over the last two years,” Rogers said in a statement. “Tackling economic inequality and strengthening our minority business community through business opportunity is more important than ever. Together, with Administrator Guzman and this passionate and impressive group of thought leaders, advocates and entrepreneurs, the CUC will work closely with the small business community to create equitable access to the resources they need, which include both capital and customers.”