In this episode of Connecting Business, Christina Munoz talks to Dr. Fitz Hill, Executive Director of the Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship. Dr. Hill discusses the importance of relationship building between Black-owned businesses and the community and emphasizes the importance of supporting Black entrepreneurship.
Programs like Kinetic Business’ Black Business Support Fund
for Black-owned businesses help achieve these goals by enabling entrepreneurs to apply for $5,000 business grants. The goal is to increase the number and stability of Black-owned businesses in its service footprint.
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Munoz: Fill us in on this Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship. If someone doesn't know what that is, what is it, and what do you do?
Hill: It was something I was doing as president and I really didn't know what, you know, from community development standpoint, but what we started doing is finding elements in our community that needed to be rehabilitated. And so the first thing that we did in 2007, the carwash on Wright Avenue and Martin Luther King.
I think at the time you would have known was one of the most dangerous corners of Little Rock. In 2006 it had 36 violent crimes. And when you really step away from communities and sometime leave them unattended to, bad things tend to happen. And when I took over as the president of the institution in 2006, we could not grow our school because of the violence surrounding our school.
So I started thinking about owning the laundromat. And I said, "Hey, if you bring to empower the community, I know the people wash their cars, I know that we could put other business, restaurants across the street." All those types of things to empower communities.
Rather than running away from business or running away from the community, we saw a problem and I say, there are three things you'll be known for in life, the problems you solve, the ones you create and the ones you to talk about. So we said we're going to do something about it. So we found some investors who went out to help us, purchased the carwash. ... So the Scott Ford Center leads our external projects like that to help look and see how we can empower and embrace our community. And we have several pending projects that we're working on now, post pandemic, kinda set everything back, but we're looking forward to hopefully 2021 will be a great year that we can empower our community and decrease crime in the process.
Munoz: You've talked about networking and the work your organization does to make sure that when Black business owners show up at lending institutions, they are prepared and can be more successful. So can you elaborate about the importance of networking and relationships when it comes to entrepreneurship?
Hill: It's no question. Relationships are at the core of anything. Being able to pick up a phone and call somebody that you know, that can help you walk you through the process.
The number one predictor for academic success in the classroom is not test score, is relationship with the teacher. So it's the same way with the entrepreneur. If you have a relationship with a bank, and you start building that relationship because I believe you do business with people that do business with you.
And that's why I think you have to think about why in many cases, when you look at the Asian population, and I saw this in California, which really opened my eyes, and I looked at where the crime is the worst, is where the business operates the least. And so when you look at the Asian population a dollar stays in Asian community 28 days. When you look at the Jewish population, it stays 16 days. When you look at the African-American population, it only stay six hours today, six hours today. Prior to integration, a dollar would stay an African-American community for four years. That's when you had Black Wall Street. You know why? Relationship connectivity.
You had different ways and so your money circulating within the community with your relationships. Now you're relationship bankrupt when you have to leave your community to go outside and ask other people to support your community and they don't live in it. And so it takes as much resource effort in building relationships outside of your community as within your community because there are very few minority-owned banks. So the relationship component is critical for doing that and that's why I applaud banks who have specific initiatives. That work specifically to target these populations and not only just to say, Hey, we've been affirmative." Because that's not really the work, we wanna be inclusive. We wanna make sure everybody is represented at the table.
Munoz: And so I'm curious in your opinion. Is it more important for that individual in that community to get out and to relationships in those other places? Or do we need those businesses making sure they're targeting those other communities or both?
Hill: Both. Here's the deal, the relationship representation is critical that you have somebody who's from that area and we do this. That's why you see now major corporations having vice-president of diversity and inclusion, why? To make sure that somebody is sitting around that table, that's sensitive to make sure we are being inclusive of everybody. And so you have CRA credits now from the banks Community Reinvestment Act that you must do to make sure that you're helping underserved communities and banks have to give away x amount of money to be able to do those types of things.
But still, if your relationship is bankrupt and you don't have those types of connecting points to help point you to, and what we tried to use Arkansas Baptist College for, is to take the underserved population and give a dream to grow what we would call growing hope, give a vision to the visualists and empower because if you think about this, in 1884 when that school was started, there had to be an entrepreneurial spirit to build old main, because they had to raise $50,000 to come up with that. So, I mean, it didn't just happen. So that spirit has been there on and on and on. And when you get into business, you know it's gonna be tough, and as a minority, sometime it can be really, really, really tough.
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