Prosperity Summit Encore, a national nonprofit for economic development, hosted a webinar, “Racial Equity in Entrepreneurship: Systematic Solutions to America’s Racial Wealth Gap”, on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Racial equity, according to Race Forward, is the process of eliminating racial disparities and improving outcomes for everyone. It is the intentional and continual practice of changing policies, practices, systems, and structures by prioritizing measurable change in the lives of people of color.

The webinar featured scholars from Morehouse College, Shaw University, Bowie State University, and Florida A&M University discussing their entrepreneurial solutions for America’s racial wealth gap and a comprehensive picture of what it takes to achieve racial equity across all areas of policy, practice, and programming for entrepreneurship. 

The webinar featured an evidence-based framework for wealth transfer in Black and Brown business families, insights on alternative financing and procurement opportunities for Black and Brown founders, best practices in academic entrepreneurship from the country’s leading historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and practical insights on President Biden’s Executive Order 13985 to advance racial equity.

Panelist Dr. Jason Black, executive director of the interdisciplinary center for creativity and innovation at Florida A&M University, said the goal of their entrepreneurship program is to not only to engage students or start a business, but creating an entrepreneurial mindset.

The program has been active since 2015.

“Whether or not a student starts a business, they have a mindset that could help them if they were to work in corporate,” he said. We decided to do this around three major pillars, primarily education, student development, and community involvement.”

Each panelists used the term “entrepreneurial mindset” as a pillar to continue to grow students’ mindsets. Black said to take note that each panelist uses the word innovation regarding their centers.

“It’s all about teaching your students to be innovators,” he said. “Generally, even if you’re not creating a brand new product from scratch, you’re creating a new company from scratch, so you might be taking a new idea from something else. I think it’s extremely important especially for our students of color to be able to strengthen that skill set.”

Panelist Tiffany Bussey, executive director of the Morehouse innovation and entrepreneurship Center, said at Morehouse, they do recognize to obtain social justice, economic justice is equally important.

“We see the pathway of business ownership as part of obtaining economic justice,” she said. “Our programming here is also focused on the circular side, and we have recently approved a minor on how we teach our communities, our target population, this whole concept of entrepreneurship a little bit differently to understand things that were presented in the historical context of gender and systematic biases.”

Bussey also said it isn’t just about technical education and how to read a balance sheet or how to get resources.

“This is truly understanding from a psychological perspective what it takes to understand the characteristic of being an entrepreneur in a system that wasn’t designed for you,” she said. For those reasonings we are really digging deep to understand the missing pieces that are in the curriculum of entrepreneurship. We have launched a brand-new class on understanding the black mindset in getting through these barriers.”

Bussey said they don’t only focus on students but focus on the community.

“One of the things we focus on is that the students walk away not only interacting with these small businesses, but to earn a badge in what we call ‘thinking by design’ and it’s really a design framework that is being utilized,” she said. “I don’t think there is any employer that’s out there that would not agree that those are the types of skills they are looking for. We see this as another way to prepare our students and make them critical thinkers.”

Bussey said her institution likes to push students to think about themselves as solving problems in society and in their own communities.

“Many times, we are users of the music industry or the HipHop community, so why not create these things of many times we are consumers are. So, when we start thinking and educating around those frameworks, we can really bring everything together,” she said.

Panelist Johnetta Hardy, executive director of the entrepreneurship innovation center at Bowie State University, said entrepreneurship is their campus-wide initiative.

“It’s so important that our president has added it to her strategic plan because she believes every student should be exposed to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. I can feel the shift,” she said. “We also have shadow boxes that students can showcase their products.”

Hardy also said access to resources help students build on their ideas and products. 

Panelist Hanif Omar, director of commercial lending and professor at Shaw University, said three years ago, he was asked by the dean of the school of business to help infuse entrepreneurship on campus.

“One of the first companies I started is 20 years old this year. I practice and run several businesses and I enjoy giving back,” he said. “I teach entrepreneurship here at the school of business and started three years ago and what I offer to students here and folks that we outreach to around our ecosystem is my mistakes that I’ve made to get me to the point where I am. I allow them to see my successes and failures and helps them to get a real look and to let them know, if I can do it, so can you.”