The latest ecosystem research is replete with disheartening data on how the pandemic is hurting small businesses. According to a survey of over 8,000 small business owners conducted between March and April 2020, 60% of respondents indicated that they laid off at least one employee, and 31% of respondents thought they had a 50% chance of going bankrupt in the next 6 months. A study from May 2020 found that while an estimated 17% of white-owned businesses closed due to the pandemic, a staggering 41% of Black-owned businesses closed. These long-standing but suddenly erupting, unequal impacts fueled swift ecosystem building efforts in response. We have witnessed this firsthand as a grantee of the Kauffman Foundation for the ESHIP Communities initiative.
Local ecosystem builders, entrepreneurs, and organizations championing them co-create small business support networks in their community. Whether through individual or collective efforts, these networks provide essential support to local business owners amidst the pandemic. The communities we work with, Baltimore, Kansas City, Long Beach, and the North-Central region of New Mexico, demonstrate the dedication and energy required to advance more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems. It is important that we as partners recognize their hard work.
Our own research can contextualize and support their efforts by capturing a localized understanding of their unique community through tools such as the Entrepreneur Support Organization questionnaire and Survey of Entrepreneurs. In addition to our surveys, we leverage publicly available data to help tell a full story about entrepreneurship in a city. This story underscores the vitality and value of the deep contextual knowledge of those who comprise and support the local ecosystem. Looking at three of our ESHIP Communities, it’s evident how community engagement can drive business survival in ways highlighted by the various data sources we’ve created or examined. Below we connect the data available to us to the stories of some of our partners in three ESHIP Communities.