Tuck will launch new minority business program

by Erin Lee | 5/5/15 7:21pm

5.6.15.news_.TuckHall_Eliza.McDonough
Eliza McDonough/The Dartmouth Staff
by Eliza McDonough / Eliza McDonough

The Tuck School of Business will launch a new program this June that will focus on helping those from underrepresented communities capitalize on new digital technologies to grow their businesses.

Google will sponsor the three days of hands-on sessions, collectively titled “Digital Excellence Program for Minority Entrepreneurs,” program leader and Tuck digital strategies faculty director Alva Taylor said.

“The idea of the session is that in today’s world, in order for a company to be successful, they have to understand the digital world, understand how it impacts their business and use it to be successful,” Taylor said.

Technology reduces the barriers to entering the corporate sector for many companies, particularly small and underrepresented businesses, he said. Taylor noted that entrepreneurs use social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to find more ways to access capital, contact potential consumers and understand their consumers.

The program aims to provide underrepresented populations in the business world, including ethnic minorities, women, those with developmental disabilities and those with military backgrounds, with access to digital technology, Taylor said. He said that the expected enrollment for the program is 100 people.

Tuck managing director of minority business programs Fred McKinney said that the new program will introduce digital tools for the minority business community that can facilitate customer service, marketing, internal operations, finance and globalization.

Taylor said that this program, unlike other Tuck-run minority business education programs, focuses purely on the digital aspect of business. He said that other courses he has taught over the past 10 years include technology alongside other topics such as marketing, operations and supply and demand.

Tuck professor and director of programs for minority and women-owned businesses Leonard Greenhalgh said Tuck began offering minority-specific programs 35 years ago.

Greenhalgh said that minorities and women are held to a higher standard to obtain bank loans, often settling for contracts with higher interest rates than white males do or not obtaining loans at all, which could reflect an unconscious bias among financial institutions.

McKinney noted that owners and families usually fund their own businesses, and an overwhelming majority of minorities do not have access to the capital necessary to start a business. The new program can help minority entrepreneurs figure out how to access capital from others who have it, he said.

McKinney said that the wealth gap is increasing between white and minority households. The net worth of an average white family is $110,000, while the net worth of an average Hispanic family is $7,500 and that of an African-American family is $5,000, he said.

Another problem that minority entrepreneurs encounter is difficulty with networking, McKinney said. He said that business is a “contact sport,” as entrepreneurs cannot succeed without having connections.

“In the African-American and Hispanic communities in this country, there is a dearth of wealth and entrepreneurs who have remained in these communities that also have the wherewithal to support early stage businesses,” he said.

McKinney noted that cities like San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C. are meccas for business owners.

“Entrepreneurs like to be around other entrepreneurs,” he said. “They like to talk to other entrepreneurs. If you’re not in that group, you’re going to have a hard time getting into that group.”

Tuck’s program will help create connections, both among minority entrepreneurs and with other parties, such as financial institutions, he said.

Taylor said that the program would allow participants to rotate between people with different expertise during the hands-on sessions.

“It’s the equivalent of business speed-dating,” he said. “The program is intended to be an actionable program, so people that have finished going through these three-day sessions can go back to their companies and do things differently.”

Google technology experts will be present during the program to help expose participants to the tools and technologies available, McKinney said.

The new program will take place June 8 through 10 at Google’s offices in Boston. A second round of sessions is expected to run in Seattle in September.

Greenhalgh said that the gap between minority business owners and the rest of the business world is being fixed slowly.

“If you leave people excluded from the mainstream so that they can’t earn a living wage and there’s tremendous unemployment in the community, you end up with hopelessness and despair,” he said. “You get situations like you found in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island and a lot of other places. We saw that in the ’60s and we’d hope we learned the lessons from the ’60s, but we have to relearn them again.”

Estaphanie Aquino contributed reporting.