Survey Launches To Assess COVID-19 Impacts On Minority Businesses

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Sep 17, 2020
A partnership has formed on a survey aimed at gauging the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the Cape Fear region.

The initiative is being undertaken by Genesis Block and Cape Fear Collective, which teamed up with ResilNC to distribute in early September the ResilNC Small Business Needs Assessment Survey in the Southeastern North Carolina business market. The groups are still actively seeking "Black and Brown business owners to complete the survey," said Tracey Newkirk, who co-founded Genesis Block with her husband, Girard Newkirk.

The small business needs assessment aims to help determine what the COVID-19 impacts are to the local landscape of minority-owned businesses; what resources are needed; and how to direct those resources to where they are needed most, Tracey Newkirk said.

ResilNC is an initiative of Partners in Equity, a North Carolina-based real estate investment fund.

"ResilNC is a community development and investment collaborative working to understand the capital and support needs of businesses caught in the margin of inequity, especially in the wake of COVID-19," stated the survey. "Our collaborative strives to infuse equity into the capital allocation decisions of banks, investors, and foundations seeking to satisfy the capital needs of these communities."

Genesis Block was contacted by Napoleon Wallace, co-founder of Partners In Equity, who reached out about the statewide initiative to fund some research around the financial, workforce and talent acquisition needs of Black and Brown businesses across the state, Tracey Newkirk said.

ResilNC has gathered community partners across the state to help collect data and find and fill the voids in resources and financial backing to support minority-owned and women-owned businesses, Wallace said.

“One of the things that we noticed coming out of COVID-19 and looking at some of the early recovery responses was that there really seemed to be a dearth of data in terms of what was happening at the local level,” Wallace said, adding that it's important now to get information, insights and feedback "from those that know the local markets best."

ResilNC came up with a standard survey and engaged with local organizations statewide to get ideas and feedback on what is needed at the local level, he said.

What they've ended up with so far is a survey pool of more than a dozen community organizations statewide and about 250 surveys of small diverse businesses throughout the state, he said.

“What we are hoping to do with that survey data is to really be able to hone in on what some of the priorities are, whether it be around access to capital; whether it be around talent and recruitment; new market development; or … technical assistance and advisory services,” Wallace said.

The COVID-19 crisis has been very different from other financial crises, being that it's health-driven, requires social distancing, and has driven a lot of changes in overall business. With the survey, groups hope to get the best insights into what’s needed in terms of recovery.

“What we know is that … in every major recession, communities of color are more deeply impacted and their businesses fail at a higher rate," Wallace said. "So the thought is, don’t just use the data that we have, the capital that we have or the existing business support networks: we are really trying to bring the data in that allows us to pinpoint opportunities for scaled improvement and be able to grow businesses as we come out of the crisis.”

The National Bureau of Economic Research has found that nationally, 41% of Black-owned businesses have closed as a result of COVID-19 impacts. The number of African-American business owners plummeted from 1.1 million in February 2020 to 640,000 in April, according to the report. Similarly, Latinx business owners dropped 32% from 2.1 million to 1.4 million February to March.

Meaghan Lewis, director of programs of Wilmington-based nonprofit Cape Fear Collective, said that ResilNC's local business assessments are a natural fit for the organization, which helps with data collection and other partnering initiatives in the region. 

The survey is part of a broader economic development strategy and data collection effort, which is both qualitative and quantitative, she said.

"This ResilNC and Genesis Block partnership gives a very specific look at a targeted set of businesses, Black and Brown-owned and the impacts that COVID-19 has had on their businesses, any capital needs, and then being able to be part of this – for this project – this broader statewide assessment of what those needs are and how organizations like ResilNC can target funding or capital support," Lewis said.

Girard Newkirk said the timing of the ResilNC initiative was perfect. Genesis Block has had a partner in data sharing with Cape Fear Collective, and "'this new initiative amplifies that," he said.

Part of what Genesis Block is working on is the ANZA Enterprise Application, which is being designed specifically for Black-owned businesses to elevate minority-owned enterprises, he said. Genesis Block has partnered with Wilmington-based tekMountain to develop the platform.

“Ultimately, what we’re working on with Cape Fear Collective is how do we get a baseline data footprint on what is missing from the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Cape Fear region ... what are the potential gaps, so that we know as Genesis Block how we can provide the service to take businesses to the next level,” Girard Newkirk said.

“So the work with Napoleon and ResilNC adds another data footprint to get an even better understanding of what the opportunities are now and in a post-COVID-19 world," he said. "As we get all of this information and piece it together, we’re going to build out our program at Genesis Block to support that. And also our technology platform with ANZA, we’re going to curate that so it supports where these very specific niches are and where the gaps are in the ecosystem."
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