The African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware has made helping businesses build generational wealth one of its priorities for 2022.

“Our priority is and will always be creating a wealth-generating system for Black communities in Philadelphia,” Chamber President Regina Hairston said, as she discussed the organization’s key focuses for 2022.

“So that means making sure that we’re creating new businesses, we’re sustaining the businesses that we have and making sure that Black dollars are reinvested in the Black community — making sure that it doesn’t just circulate for six hours but we change that narrative so those dollars are really reinvested into our communities ”

With that in mind, the organization seeks to expand its successful initiatives rolled out in 2021 such as the Coaching to Capital and Peership programs.

“We’re going to be focusing heavily on those this year, making sure that we expand those and deepen our reach through those programs,” Hairston said.

“These are not for start-up businesses. These are for established businesses that have at least been in business for two years because the focus here is we’re going to grow businesses.”

She highlighted the disparities in terms of Philadelphia’s African-American population and business ownership. A recent analysis from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that Black people own just 6% of businesses with employees in the city and 30% of non-employer businesses, despite being 44% of Philadelphia’s population.

“We have to increase that number if we plan to ever change the narrative on generational wealth for the Black community,” Hairston stressed.

The chamber’s Coaching to Capital initiative focuses on helping businesses obtain capital.

“We know in order to have not just access to capital, it’s making it’s sure that there is diversity of capital — not just your traditional debt capital,” said Hairston, who has led the business advocacy organization since January 2021.

“Making sure that there is a high quality of business support around that access to capital so that the businesses are leveraging the capital that they do have, to make sure that they are growing.”

Five participating businesses have completed the Community College of Philadelphia’s 12-week Power Up Your Business program. They were recently paired with an equity adviser at NewSpring Capital, who are providing a one-on-one consultation and create a growth strategy. The chamber is currently recruiting for its spring cohort.

Last year, the chamber partnered with Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia to launch a corporate peership program with two Black-owned Philadelphia businesses.

Through the collaboration, Four Seasons executives were paired with members of the African-American chamber to provide training and mentorship.

Participating business representatives include Tiffani L. Brown, executive director, Personal Home Care Agency of PA, LLC and Melissa Lamarre, CEO, Workaholix Media Consulting.

The program is a six-month rotational experience for the businesses, with emphasis on marketing/public relations, human resources, procurement and guest relations.

The chamber is also seeking to expand on its Build Back Black initiative. As part of that initiative, the organization launched a Black Owned Box that was filled with products from member retail businesses.

Hairston says advocating for businesses that have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic is another key focus for the year.

While the pandemic adversely impacted small businesses, research has shown that Black-owned businesses were hit even harder.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that Black ownership dropped 41% — the greatest decline among all racial groups during the depths of the pandemic.

“We will be working with our diverse chamber partners to advocate for rebuilding businesses that were decimated by the pandemic because there are still businesses that are hurting like our personal service industry and our salons and barbershops,” Hairston said.

“We really have to focus on them this year and make sure that we come up with a ‘build back’ solution. So that is top of mind as well.”

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