First, it is the right thing to do: Kauffman Foundation indicated in December 2016 that the entrepreneurship gap between whites and people of color is notably large, and it’s the cause of further inequality. As Kauffman Foundation’s newsletter puts it “U.S. entrepreneurs hold an impressive amount of wealth. While about one in ten American workers, or 13 million people, are self-employed, they hold 37 percent of all wealth in the United States. The underrepresentation of people of color in this wealthy group has implications for racial income inequality and wealth disparity.” If you keep reading about the reality of entrepreneurs of color, their chances of success are slim: little or no initial access to capital, difficulties completing college lead to less sophisticated business models and most times lower sales, little or no entrepreneurial past in their families, etc. We all hear the daunting statistics of startup survival, but you have a better chance if your family has money or access to it. People of color have fewer resources, in general, which eventually lead to higher barriers to entry.
Struggling colleges are in every corner of every state. Their enrollment numbers go down, and their sustainable future depends on enrolling more students since government funding is drying out and student tuition must finance colleges at a much higher rate. Unfortunately, many local students come from underserved communities and families, and they also struggle to commit substantial amounts of family resources when, for many of them, their current circumstances are really difficult and the prospects of having a return on their college investment are longer term.
Both institutions and students of color struggle, but there might be a win-win solution: exploring together the power of entrepreneurship as a path to economic prosperity. Colleges can activate and engage institutional stakeholders, policy makers, and community resources in ways that students themselves can’t when it comes down to supporting entrepreneurial activity. Students of color can see themselves in a more promising platform if their prospects of creating a profitable and sustainable business are higher through college than on their own.
All of a sudden, a blue ocean opportunity emerges for colleges: lead the movement of entrepreneurship of color. Get on it, lead it, develop a good program, good partnerships, good access to capital, good public policy advocacy, while giving these students both quality higher learning and a chance to grow a startup that not only survives but thrives.
#BeWise and lead the movement of entrepreneurship of color. Enrollments of students of color will go up, and they may enjoy the study and practice of entrepreneurship as a good path to economic prosperity for themselves and their communities.