A plethora of help is available for minority-owned companies. But not enough to transform a minority-owned Clark Kent into a Superman. Agencies, associations and online services offer resources to minority-owned companies. Many are associated with the federal government, and others serve a broader array of small businesses.
But minority-owned companies still must wend their own routes to success, said Courtland Cox, director of the Minority Business Development Agency, part of the Department of Commerce in Washington.
"We can help with access to capital and markets," Cox said. "But the minority-business marketplace still needs to grow on its own. Those companies must understand equity capital and use technology, or they can be out of the ballgame."
Cox offered three areas where minority-owned businesses need to improve if they plan to grow and compete. Those companies must first understand the culture of the industry where they work.
And that can include understanding the drive to get bigger. More end users are bundling a group of contracts and looking to outsource a wheelbarrow of projects to a single supplier, he said. Minority-owned companies must be large enough to take on the work, he said.
"Big firms want to deal with fewer companies," Cox said.
That can cause the forming of strategic alliances or even mergers among minority-owned companies, Cox said.
Those companies also must look for equity capital, even if it means giving up a portion of ownership, Cox said. "Debt puts you in the hole, ties up your home and doesn't allow you to grow," he said.
And, finally, those companies must understand technology. That includes information technology and conducting business-to-business electronic commerce, he said.
Cox's agency and several others offer some services that can help. Among the options:
Minority Business Development Agency, Washington. The federal agency has an online database at its Web site, www.mbda.gov, called Opportunity Phoenix that shares upcoming contracts from government and private business.
Minority-owned businesses can register electronically by SIC code on the site. Tel. (202) 482-5061.
National Minority Supplier Development Council, New York. The group certifies minority-owned businesses through regional councils nationwide and offers networking opportunities at the state level. It represents more than 3,500 companies. Its Web site is at www.nmsdcus.org. Tel. (212) 944-2430.
Small Business Administration. SBA takes a broader focus to help small businesses and budding entrepreneurs gain access to funding and training. The SBA also has several development programs targeted to minority-owned businesses. It can be found at www.sbaonline.sba.gov.
National Association of Investment Companies, Washington. This group of private investment firms is looking to put money into minority-owned companies. Tel. (202) 289-4336.
Business Consortium Fund Inc., New York. The group provides financing for working capital on specific minority-sourced contracts. More information can be found at www.bcf-triad.org. Tel. (212) 243-7360.
All Business Network. This online resource guide links minority-owned firms to support groups nationwide at www.all-biz.com.