9.25.2006

Making a Difference Over Time

In its 2005 report to the President, the Small Business Administration
cites a number of reasons why African-American and Latino business
formation lags behind that of non-Latino whites and Asians. If you're
hoping for a quick fix, the report will sober you, for none of these
problems will be resolved overnight.

There are huge differences in assets and in education, both of which
are strongly correlated with starting a business and succeeding at it.
There are differences in being near other entrepreneurs, whether in
one's own family or in one's social networks. And there is
discrimination, in terms of access to capital and contracts.

As someone who spent ten years working for a non-profit that promotes
minority entrepreneurship, and who has recently joined its board, it
can be easy to become discouraged. For change in these areas is
likely to take generations.

And yet it is that very fact that also inspires me. As we expose our
client, some as young as 14, to business principles, introduce them to
big wigs around the region, and support them through their
entrepreneurial experiences, we might be making a small difference for
them.

But that small difference will get magnified in the next generation,
and magnified still more in the generation after that. Business will
be discussed around the dinner table more often, rolodexes will get
fatter, and people will have more business knowledge and more business
"reps" to draw on.

We may not see a quick fix, even at the end of a long lifetime. But
that does not negate that we are contributing to a slower but greater
fix. And if that's the case, this is very exciting work to contribute
to.

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