The global pandemic caused a paradigm shift for Black small business owners that will reverberate for generations. During the COVID-19 shutdown, four out of ten black-owned businesses closed, a rate that was double the closure rate of white-owned businesses.

However, even as established businesses permanently shut their doors, there was a marked uptick in the number of Blacks opening new businesses.  According to a recently released report on early stage entrepreneurship by the Kauffman Foundation, there were more new Black-owned businesses proportionate to the total population than at any time in the past 25 years.  

The increase in Black entrepreneurship does not come as a surprise to Gene Hale, chairman of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC) and president of G & C Corporation. According to Hale, boom or bust, the need to be the captain of their own destiny runs deep in Black Americans.  “I see their enthusiasm and their desire to succeed all the time at our events, workshops and seminars,” Hale said.  

Hale knows what it’s like to create a successful business from the ground up.  In 1981, building upon his experience working with construction materials and supplies financing, Hale started G & C Corporation.  A leader in the sales and leasing of construction equipment, material and supplies, G & C is currently one of the nation largest Black owned businesses.

Hale said networking and building relationships is key to growing and sustaining a business.  Spanning four decades, Hale’s list of high level government appointments is extensive. His major appointments include President Obama’s appointment of Hale to the President’s Export Council; an appointment from President George W. Bush to the President’s Board of Advisors on Historical Black Colleges; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s appointment of Hale as president of the Mayor’s Export Council; and an appointment from former Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to the Los Angeles County Small Business Commission.

In 1991, a decade after opening G & C Corporation, Hale and a group of executives, including the late Homer Broome, former president of Marvid Associates, launched GLAAACC to advocate and support African American business enterprises.

GLAAACC has four primary areas of focus:  promoting growth and development; providing access to capital and financial products; influencing public policy; and creating networking environments.

The chamber is committed to creating a pipeline for the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.  Two core programs specifically targeted at future business leaders are the Business Evolution Program and the Ed Fund and Foundation Scholarship program.

The Business Evolution Program (BEP) was developed in 2005 by GLAAACC’s Business & Economic Development Committee as a means to equip entrepreneurs with the tools for success and sustainability.  For 15 years, GLAAACC’s BEP Committee selected one promising business owner to mentor for a year.  When the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March 2020, GLAAACC made the decision to go virtual and expand the mentorship program from one entrepreneur to a cohort of 13 small business owners.

The rigorous nine month curriculum includes modules on contracting, procurement, supplier diversity, lending and professional business services, technical assistance, technology and access to capital. Participants also come away with an understanding of the importance of leadership in operating a business, developing a capability statement, having access to capital and learning how to build a robust back-office structure.    

The GLAAACC Education Fund & Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit corporation, was launched in 1999 to provide scholarships for high school students seeking a degree in business or a related field.  Each year the Ed Fund Foundation has awarded scholarships ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 to deserving college-bound high school seniors from Crenshaw, Dorsey, Washington Preparatory and Jordan High Schools.  To date, GLAAACC’s Ed Fund has presented more than $600,000 to over 150 minority students from underserved communities.

In addition to BEP and the Ed Fund and Foundation scholarship program, GLAAACC regularly partners with corporate sponsors to present town hall meetings, business and networking conferences, technical assistance and capacity building workshops and seminars.
To achieve its mission, GLAAACC has partnered with several corporate sponsors dedicated to supporting diversity inclusion include Hensel Phelps, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas, T-Mobile, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Balfour Beatty, Amazon, Acco Engineered Systems, CIT, AT&T, American Honda, Cedars Sinai,  Chase, Union Bank, MacFarlane Partners, Valero, Perkins & Will, Tutor Perini and Clark.

“The past year was tough for a lot of businesses, especially black-owned business,” said Hale.  “But it also presented a great opportunity to regroup, hone your skills and pivot to the place you were meant to be.”

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