Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Event Recap: Equal Opportunity for Small Businesses

How do we expand opportunities for small, minority-owned businesses? Why is it important? Does race play a role in business funding?

Featured Guest Opening Remarks:

Sam Hamilton:
  • Is race involved? Racism in one form or another impacts whether or not a small business can thrive and perform?
  • 2010 Census: The city of Hartford-38% are African American, 43% Hispanic, and 
  • Hartford businesses: African Americans own 19.4%  14.4% owned by Hispanics, and  24.3% owned by women.
  • When you look back at opportunities for early childhood development and understanding of wealth creation, and it is not there. Banks want to know what you have to put on the table in order to run a business. 
  • You will find that a new form of control prevents equal opportunity to wealth, land, entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • There has been progress, but when you look at communities and access, the educational experience, home experiences, and support for those who can do business has not improved. 
  • There are a number of programs in place, but you have to admit that race does play a part. 
  • You don't have the market to start a business if graduation rates are low and prison rates are high. 
  • There is a difference between Farmington Ave West and Farmington Ave East. There is a difference between downtown Hartford and Blue Back Square. 
  • Entrepreneurship needs to be valued.
  • Not having a background on how business works impacts the value of business and entrepreneurship
  • HEDCO becomes an alternative lender to minority small businesses who cannot get funding elsewhere. We look for the quality that these businesses will provide
  • We need to look at what is being taught at school. 
  • Not everyone is going to go to college. What happened to vocational training. Two family incomes built this city and they provide wealth. 
  • We need to teach children the need for their education and an understanding for their vocation and future will be. 
  • Race and gender have played a part in this process. 
  • HEDCO helps individuals understand how to make business happen. We provide an understanding of business that might not have been provided when individuals were in school.
  • The Jobs Bill that was passed yesterday will help fund small businesses.
  • Small businesses are where youth have their first jobs. You begin to understand the responsibilities that come with business. You are more aware of what you have to do. 
  • Women have a problem valuing their work. The story of the $100 dollar. A woman decides to sell her doll for $30. She told them how much it cost for materials and labor. It took $100 to make the doll and she was going to sell it for $30. She didn't want to charge for something she enjoyed doing. 
  • Very often people like to deal with people that look like them. Stereotypes exist. My grandfather would put on his suit to go see the banker. It goes back to a time when you needed to carry your papers around to show that you were free.
  • Why are there so many barbershops and beauty salons in African American communities? It is a part of culture. I don't know what I would do if my barber died. Businesses have success in certain niches. Cultural competence is critical. Sometimes an intermediary is necessary, like HEDCO. 
  • In the construction industry there are mandated programs that require certain things be done. We need to make sure that they are followed. 
  • We need to be there when things are being considered at City Council and Legislature
  • Are people meeting their affirmative action requirements?
  • How many city of Hartford residents are getting jobs in construction? 
  • Environmental racism: why did they put a water system in place that had water and sewage going through the same pipes and why was the retention of that sewage on Albany Avenue. The pipes would back up and sewage went on Albany Avenue. People need to act before this happens.
  • Food access is a major issue that impacts cities and certain communities. We need to act on this before the "train leaves the station" we need to know when it's coming and where it's going. You need to be involved early. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • Why don't we have a greater number of women, African Americans, and Hispanics owning businesses. 
  • We need to develop an action plan.
Chris Haylett:
  •  The are effects on businesses because of the economy today. The community helps to keep us going. 
  • HEDCO was helpful to help start Fire-N-Spice. 
  • Things have changed very much since I started my business. Even having a conversation about getting loans is difficult. 
  • We have equity in the building and we need to make ends meet. 
  • We are optimistic that things will turn around, but it is difficult to see how things with turn around for me. 
  • It is better to own a building rather than paying rent. We bought a restaurant and it took some time to get the building to the place we wanted it. 
  • I want to educate people to make healthier choices about their food and their livelihood. So we went completely vegan at Fire-N-Spice. I want to contribute my part and provide knowledge to others through eating and cooking classes. 
  • This restaurant resonates with people. 

Group Discussion:  
Last year an editorial said that because Obama was elected there was no need for affirmative action. Racism is so engrained.  Some people are not going to hire you, but it is on a subconscious level. 

People have good credit, but they are still not getting business loans. Jesse Jackson Jr. said that this needs to be addressed. Anyone can have bad credit.  For a minority applying for a small business loan, how do you deal with credit issues? 
  • Credit is what it is
  • In traditional lending market, if it is not at a certain level, it is cut off. Nothing else is considered. The number is the number
  • A non-traditional lender tries to get past that. Why was your credit impacted? What is the person's character. How can we overcome some of these credit glitches? 
  • A business might still be able to operate well. 
  • Banking communities look at electronic scoring.
  • Non-traditional lenders do not want to hold everyone hostage because of a number. Many years back you used to sit down with the banker and talk about issues you had, we provide that now. 
  • There are ways to get past the glitch to get you in business and develop a track record.  
You need folks with a good idea and in these tough economic times even good ideas do not fare well. Are you seeing good ideas? Are you seeing ideas that are doing well but facing difficulties getting off the ground? 
  • In the reorganization of the city those who would check on small businesses have been eliminated. 
  • With the passage of the new jobs bill there will be more resources
  • People have been holding on a long time. We are in a new normal and we need to learn how to operate in the new normal. We need to learn how to manage money differently. 
  • If the business is too far gone, we need to make tough decisions since the resources are limited. 
  • If you are involved in the community organizations we need to find a way to have a coordinator who provides support and direction for small businesses. 
  • You see a lot of people who could qualify years ago, but do not qualify any longer in the traditional market. Now there is a larger pool that need assistance from non-traditional lenders.
  • We have the legislators who are coming together to make sure the Legislature recognizes the need for assistance for small businesses.
  • There is an election coming up, we need to hold people accountable and make smart decisions in elections. 
  • Business owners can only yell so loud, you can be labelled a "troublemaker" if you yell too loud. 
  • Community support and advocacy are needed. It is a tough time and it is a matter of the strong will survive.
There is a mystery in running a business. It seems like you run a business if you know someone who runs a business. How do we teach people how to run a business?  
  • We need to look at who is getting certain things, like who is getting the product. 
  • The world is running on access to corn. 85% of what you eat involves corn and this impacts how restaurants and food suppliers operate. After corn comes who is going to control the water?
  • There are some things that are beyond our control, but it needs to be supplemented. 
  • Thre are signs of what is to come. You need to read read read read read everything you can
  • We are global. It is not just the neighborhood. 
  • Children need to learn how to live in the world that they grow up in.
 How do we get people to make the right choices and go to businesses that offer smart choices?
  • Education is key. 
  • Fire-N-Spice offers cooking classes and advise for alternatives in food choices. 
  • Keeping up with what is going on in your community and the world is crucial.
  • Everyone suffers from sickness. It is not just the air we breathe or the water we drink, it is also the food we eat. Food can save your life, but it can also take it. 
  • Culture impacts us. 
  • Money effects how we eat. If you go into a supermarket, you get all of the conventional stuff. People who sell you these foods do not care they sell you the food for the money. These businesses are trying to make money. The government is not listening to people about the bad foods that these businesses are selling. The education to make better choices is not provided.  
  • You need to consider not just buying what is in front of you. You have choices to go elsewhere. There are smaller businesses that are providing options. 
  • Maybe we need to ask smaller businesses to provide us with more options. We need to build more community and tell the businesses what we want. 
  • Former warehouse spaces are being used to provide better food choices and green jobs. There are movements to buy local. Looking at farmers' markets and local businesses help you control the products that you buy. 
  • Human behavior is so complex. People's stress over their lack of money will make them turn to poor choices.
Inspiration to Action
  •  Understand the community you are operating in as a small business owner
  • Ensure supplier diversity programs are working the way they are supposed to. 
  • Learn to operate in the "new norm"
  • Bring back community coordinators that can provide support and direction
  • Need to work to support more businesses through grants
  • Eat at Fire-N-Spice
  • Education yourself and others
  • Tell small businesses what you are looking for
  • Take advantage of the services small businesses can provide for you.
  • You can use SNAP and food stamp programs at Farmers' Markets
  • Support affirmative action
  • Advocate!! Evil prospers when good people remain silent!



      Hunter Liguore said...

      Very motivational discussion. Interestingly, this morning a friend passed this clip about a food pantry in Brooklyn, explaining how they are tackling some of the same issues discussed: getting good, nourishing food to the homeless, for instance. http://youtu.be/1X_67ko0VRk. Thank you again for the opportunity to learn more.

      Sushil Kumar Kushwaha said...

      Thanks For Sharing..........
      Nice Small Business Ideas and Tips Shared by you...............
      small business loans