By Lizzie Duong
The United Nations estimates that up to 500,000 Vietnamese refugees perished at sea from diseases, storms, and starvation. With a long history of oppression and struggle, I’m always proud to say that I come from a family of hardworking immigrants. As a child of survivors who fled Communist Vietnam on wooden fishing boats, I learned early on about the multifaceted challenges facing marginalized communities. In a country of endless freedom and greater opportunities, it’s no wonder that minorities tend to start more businesses than any other group.
McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility delves into how entrepreneurship, especially a type of community-based entrepreneurship that we often see here at the ANTrepreneur Center, is a great way for people to build community wealth. That being said, minority business owners are disproportionately threatened with the fear of failure because “black business owners have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic-linked economic downturn, partly because they were more likely to already be in a precarious position, including more likely to be located in communities with business environments that are more likely to produce poor business outcomes” (Stewart, 2020). Therefore, minority businesses tend to make safer decisions during the business ideation stage that inevitably keeps their startups small.
I believe this report does an amazing job demonstrating this conflicting struggle of desire versus defeat within underserved communities who’re looking for greater opportunities through entrepreneurship. The whole point of the start-up phase is focused on planning a business’s survival and profitability. Yet, “only 4 percent of Black American businesses survive the start-up stage, even though 20 percent of Black Americans start businesses” (Stewart, 2020). Even after surviving the start-up stage, these businesses are largely burdened with debt and difficulties of raising capital, partly due to unhelpful relationships within the business community.
During my time working at the ANTrepreneur Center, I’ve noticed how certain groups, including undocumented and international students, work harder to obtain the same types of funding and success rates as other student start-ups. As such, the center is working toward becoming more educated and proactive about these obstacles. In many ways, we’re adapting to this ever-changing business world to help lessen these gaps. For example, our upcoming Sustainability Hackathon has been rebranded as “Hacking Student Success” as an attempt to defeat the typical stereotype of what a “hackathon” entails. With over $65,000 in funding prizes, we encourage all students from different majors and departments to compete as we learn how to make this planet a better place together.