New program aims to help support and encourage minority-owned businesses

October 7 – Providing equal opportunities is part of a new plan to increase minority-owned businesses in and around Aiken.

During the Aiken Chamber of Commerce’s monthly First Friday Means Business event, business owners and local officials met to discuss what’s going on in Aiken. The main theme of Friday’s meeting was the need to increase and support minority-owned businesses.

Eugene White, the featured speaker, is president of the Aiken County branch of the NAACP. He shared an update on the Aiken Business Coalition entrepreneurship program.

Officially launched earlier this year, the program aims to encourage minority-owned business owners and entrepreneurs.

The program was made possible through partnerships between the Aiken Chamber of Commerce, the City of Aiken, the Greater Augusta Black Chamber of Commerce, the Aiken County Branch of the NAACP, and the Security Federal Bank.

White said there was a need to bring more black and other minorities into business discussions.

“Today we’re going to talk about entrepreneurship in the effort we’ve put together to make it easier for black and minority people to settle into this uncomfortable seat of ambiguity,” White said.

Money, training and education are several ways an entrepreneur can start a business, White said.

“If you can provide that money in addition to solid strategic training and education, it tends to last a little longer and have a lasting effect,” he said.

White said the entrepreneurship program is open to all entrepreneurs and is structured to serve the working person. He said that classes were held in the evening.

The program also helps entrepreneurs obtain business credentials such as an Employee Identification Number (EIN), set up a business account, and obtain the services of attorneys and accountants so they can excel in a business.

White said they also took courses in marketing, social media and QuickBooks.

According to the data collected, the majority of business owners were black, but he wants to better reach the Hispanic and Latino community.

White said that for the region to develop minority-owned businesses, there must be networking opportunities, continued funding, a strong education system and a supportive business community.

“When we put all of these things together, it allows us to walk down the road,” he said. “Where this road will take us we don’t know, but I can guarantee you it’s always smoother, it’s always easier and better when we go together.”

Ryan H. Bowman