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

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 rough, 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.  

It’s not a level playing field 

But, there are thousands of people 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 nonprofit 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. Their stories of resilience and drive fire me up. I think they’ll fire you up, too.  

Let’s listen to the go-getters, do-ers, and change-makers 

Working with GoDaddy, I’m part of a new weekly podcast. It’s called Made Here. It’s a show about underserved entrepreneurs. 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, we’ll meet dozens of different entrepreneurs. We’ll 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. We’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. 

Listen to the first episodes of Made Here below and wherever you listen to podcasts:

In Episode 1, we speak with Arnold Smith, the founder of the Eastern Iowa NFL Flag Football League:

In Episode 2, we speak with Yolanda Owens, founder of farm-to-skin spa, Iwi Fresh:

Each week, we’ll share stories about people who are defying expectations and challenging the norm. We’ll 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 they’ll 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.  

If you’re looking for some real stories about real entrepreneurs across America (and a couple in the UK), join us. You can subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen. 

Resources 

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 be a mentor, write a blog post, connect with local nonprofits who are working with small businesses. The importance of networks and mentorship cannot be understated.

Check out these resources on OpenWeStand.org for more business lessons and strategies you can use to get through these tough times.