Written by Kim Zeuli and Nicole Dolcimascolo, EEP – January 11, 2021
The pandemic has both highlighted and exacerbated the systemic inequities that have created underrepresented entrepreneurs—entrepreneurs of color, women and military veterans, among others. It has underscored the importance of ongoing efforts like JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Small Business Forward initiative (launched in 2015) to move underrepresented entrepreneurs to the center of small business support systems.
During the past six years, Small Business Forward has invested in a dynamic group of inclusive, entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs) dedicated to a shared mission of providing underrepresented entrepreneurs with access to capital, technical support and guidance and unlocking economic opportunity and mobility. This year, the ESOs were on the front line of a national, small business crisis, helping their diverse clients navigate a compounded set of challenges.
Our evaluation of Small Business Forward over the past six years has captured the impact of a small subset (21) of their ESO partners. These ESOs have supported nearly 11,000 small businesses, providing diverse entrepreneurs with critical business education, connections to capital and access to markets to grow their businesses and create new jobs. The businesses have raised $1.5 billion in capital, generated $1.3 billion in revenue, created more than 28,000 jobs, and paid $953 million in wages.
JMPC highlighted the work of BioSTL:
ESO Navigation of the Pandemic
The ESOs, like all organizations and businesses, also had to navigate the impact of the pandemic—closing their offices and changing how they served their customers. They also had to contend with customers in crisis. For many ESOs, this meant moving all operations online, helping their businesses access emergency funding and changing and increasing their programming—quickly and without additional staff resources. We asked each ESO to reflect on how they navigated this year’s challenges and provide us with some examples of how they pivoted to help their clients.
BioSTL (St. Louis, MO)
“For some people, working from home is as simple as opening a laptop. It has been a little more complicated for companies working out of BioGenerator shared labs. (BioGenerator is the investment arm of BioSTL.) For a startup with limited resources, access to shared equipment is essential. Once scientists began working from home, many companies couldn’t afford to let valuable research languish during the pandemic. BioGenerator has loaned some equipment and machines to startup founders setting up home office labs to help companies continue their research at a critical time. Entrepreneurs are best at being flexible and solving problems, and BioSTL is encouraged to see so many startups continue to push through these challenging times and continue to develop innovation in St. Louis.” –Lindsey Harrison, Program Manager, BioSTL