What it means to be an entrepreneur in an underserved community in America

 |  4 min read

What it means to be an entrepreneur in an underserved community in America

Guest Post by Stacy Cline, Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility

Not all people involved in start-ups pitch investors and live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most are scattered across the U.S. and they’re gritty and tenacious. The role these very small businesses play in the economy has gone largely unrecognized, so we set out to measure the impact of these entrepreneurs and their microbusinesses through our multi-year research project, Venture Forward. We found that ventures help local communities and economies flourish, and we want to help them thrive. In fact, since 2017, we’ve worked with local communities to help more than 3,500 entrepreneurs through Empower by GoDaddy. Empower is our social impact program equipping entrepreneurs in underserved communities with the training, tools and resources they need to be successful.

Let’s talk about opportunity. Here’s the concept that I grew up with: get a job, work hard, make money, and you’ll succeed. Basically, if you really put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

Can anyone be an entrepreneur?

It’s the same concept with entrepreneurship, right? It’s tough, but if you’re willing to take the leap, work hard, and hustle, you’ll succeed. If you don’t, you didn’t work hard enough. You had a bad idea. Try again. Entrepreneurship is a journey. There is no direct path to success. A lot of the time you’ve got to work hard, experiment, fail, and start over again. But there’s a problem with the just-work-hard-enough way of thinking. This is the problem:

Not everyone gets a fair shot.

And this? This really drives me nuts. I’ve spent the last four years of my career working with entrepreneurs in underserved communities around the country. If there’s one group of people who are putting in the long, hard hours to make their ideas a reality, it’s them. If all it takes is hard work, tenacity and a little bit of crazy, they’re the ones who deserve to succeed.

Creating a level playing field

But there are many people in underserved communities across the country who don’t have access to capital. They have little equity. They don’t have reliable internet. They don’t know someone who will fund their ideas. For these folks, their socioeconomic status, race, or where they live has hindered their ability to seize opportunities available to others. If starting a non-profit or a business were a marathon, they’re starting at mile zero and a lot of others are starting at mile thirteen. But you know what? A lot of these entrepreneurs still succeed. And through Venture Forward we’ve found that their success can lift up communities, make them more agile and resilient, raise the median income for everyone, reduce unemployment, and lead to greater recovery from economic downturns. Their stories of resilience and drive fire me up. I think they’ll fire you up too.

Let’s listen to the go getters, doers, and change makers

In addition to providing content, networks, resources, and free products to entrepreneurs through Empower, we work to tell their stories through Made Here, a GoDaddy podcast.

It’s a show about entrepreneurs in underserved communities. It’s a chance for us to shine a light on some incredible humans who, against extraordinary odds, are making their own way in the world today.

On Made Here, you’ll meet dozens of different entrepreneurs. We talk to Yolanda, who has overcome barrier after barrier to turn her passion for all-natural skin care into a business. Today, you can find her products at Whole Foods across the South. You’ll meet Karly, who used her dad’s struggles with addiction and homelessness to create a project that feeds and comforts hundreds of people who do not have a place to sleep in Seattle.

Each week we share stories about people who are defying expectations and challenging the norm. We dig in on what it means to be an underserved entrepreneur in America and hear what it takes to turn an idea into reality. These individuals share how they got started, how they overcame setbacks and provide advice for those starting or struggling in their journey. These amazing entrepreneurs changed the way I think about opportunity. They’ve changed the way I think about dedication and purpose. They’ve reinforced my belief that anyone, anywhere should have an equal shot at making their dreams of being their own boss a reality. You can subscribe to Made Here on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen. To learn more about Empower by GoDaddy and our work in the community, check out GoDaddyforGood.com.

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for additional resources
  • Explore local nonprofit organizations in your community who focus on small business. Many communities have a local small business development center (SBDC), a community college or a nonprofit focused on providing tools and resources to small businesses
  • Explore local community development financial institutions (CDFIs) who work on expanding economic opportunity in low-income areas by providing access to financial products or services
  • Check out mentor services like Micro Mentor to get matched up with someone who may be able to help you build your business
If you are an individual wanting to help small business
  • This one is easy. SHOP LOCAL! Bank local, promote the small businesses that you love!
  • If you have skills or knowledge to help a small business owner, sign up to a mentor, write a blog post, connect with local nonprofits who are working with small business. The importance of networks and mentorship cannot be understated
  • Explore the Venture Forward data to learn more about your city