About the Institute

In order to streamline efforts supporting African American small business owners, Main Street Launch has established the African American Entrepreneurship Institute. Through the institutionalization of resources, the Institute will provide a long-term anchor for the African American business community. Our multi-faceted approach incorporates flexible concessionary lending products, programs to support businesses at all life cycles, and long-term strategy.

Our Approach


Access to Capital






Main Street Launch received funding from the Citi Foundation and Wells Fargo to focus our work on serving African American entrepreneurs. This funding gave us an opportunity to deepen our existing work with this community. Through this program, we specifically reached out to African American small business owners to deploy small business loans into Black-owned businesses. We piloted an Entrepreneur-In-Residence program that used mentorship and training to accelerate the growth of the program participants’ businesses. Through this process, a few things became clearer to our team:

  1. The ecosystem of small business support lacks formal coordination, which makes it challenging for entrepreneurs to find support and get the help they need when they need it.
  2. There are incredible organizations serving African American entrepreneurs, and their work would benefit from being amplified.
  3. Many African American entrepreneurs need different kinds of support when attempting to access capital. Having the time to build relationships, establish trust, and work at the business owner’s pace makes access to capital much more accessible to first time loan applicants.
  4. Academic study on the impact of business ownership on the African American wealth gap is fragmented. This lack of independent scholarship makes it difficult for nonprofits to make the case for dedicated resources.  

In order to better address the challenges we observed, Main Street Launch decided to launch an Institute to focus specifically on the needs of African American entrepreneurs. The Institute is at a very early stage. Please continue to visit this page or follow @mainstlaunch on social media for updates.

Courtney Smith (right) and his team with Warriors center Kevon Looney and Mariah Simone.
Courtney Smith (right), Entrepreneur in Residence alumnus, and his team with Warriors center Kevon Looney and Mariah Simone.

Meet our Entrepreneurs-In-Residence

Courtney Smith (right) and his team with Warriors center Kevon Looney and Mariah Simone.

Institute Partners