This post was written by Main Street Launch’s Manager – Data & Online Content.
The Runway Project is attempting to solve the deep infrastructural problem that African American entrepreneurs lack access to seed money for their businesses. There are many crowdfunding programs around the United States that are attempting to lend to all entrepreneurs. However, many of these programs require you to raise money from family and friends before your fund becomes live to the general public. This presents an access and equity challenge for African American entrepreneurs: “Pew Research Center has found that whites in the US have access to $142k and that African Americans have access to merely $11k from this common funding path.”
This is a major issue because when trying to access funding, many entrepreneurs of color lack the proper seed money. This forces some African American entrepreneurs to bootstrap their business. Bootstrapping really keeps them from growing to their greatest potential. It is incredibly difficult to pay for your business and life by using the money that you have in savings.
The Runway Project is attempting to close this gap. They created a working group to find diverse and possible solutions to this problem. Our partner and Uptima Business Bootcamp founder Rani Langer-Croager is on the team for this project, with a specific focus on Runway Oakland. Rani has helped identify women African American entrepreneurs whose businesses could really benefit with loans up to $20,000. Many of the entrepreneurs that are featured on their website went through Uptima Business Boot Camp.
In addition to the work being done in Oakland, The Runway Project is doing three pilot projects in other cities: D.C., Cincinnati, and Baltimore. The projects will be done in a culturally appropriate way based on the needs of local entrepreneurs. They are also teaming up with organizations that are already present in those cities to ensure that they are providing complimentary services that actually meaningful to those communities.
Visit their website to learn more: http://www.therunwayproject.org/