Last year’s pitch black winners: Ian Williams of Deadstock Coffee, Paige Hendrix-Buckner of ClientJoy and Damola Otomosho of Swyft Studios

Support Portland’s Black Founders

In 2017, we’re inviting our member businesses to author calls-to-action that align with our focus areas. This month’s post is by Stephen Green, City Manager at Townsquared. Stephen describes the opportunity for local businesses to support the city’s up and coming black entrepreneurs.

Black founders need to hustle more than ever for capital in Portland. The situation is dire. A recent article from the Portland Business Journal points out that black-owned companies have been hit the hardest by the shrinking number of small business loans in the region. The numbers are bleak and point to systemic inequity.

According to the PBJ, between 2007 and 2015 the number of loans made to black-owned businesses plummeted 91 percent from 66 loans made to only six (yes, you read that correctly, six). This despite the increase in deposits in Portland which climbed 84 percent to $364 million. In short: money is definitely going in but it’s not going out to the founders in our community who most desperately need it. The drying up of capital is occurring at a time when the number of black firms in Portland is at its highest point ever. So what are they to do?

This is where the 150+ members of BBPDX and our city’s business allies come in: today I’m calling on you to buy tickets for and donate money to the popular black founder event PitchBlack. Money raised from this call to action will go directly to the pool of money for the winners.

This isn’t the first time BBPDX has stepped up to support this event. Last year, in one of the first monthly calls to action, members pledged $7,000 to the winners of the annual pitch contest for black founders. A crowd of over 300 people showed up to cheer on the participants who courageously shared their ideas with mush of Portland that they have never met. Ian Williams, of Deadstock Coffee, Damola Otomosho, of Swyft Studios and Paige Hendrix-Buckner, of ClientJoy took home the prize money and have gone on to have gone on to see great success.

Now in the third year, I want to leverage my TEDx Portland talk and growing relationships with black founders around the country to show what shared prosperity can look like. The point behind the event is not to find the most ground-breaking ideas but to plant seeds in the PDX startup community and inspire those who historically have had the least support. I realized a few years ago that while Portland’s startup ecosystem was growing it was doing so without representation of the group of black founders emerging inside it. This event is about building community and changing perspectives. I’m calling on Portland business owners for your help.

The Challenge:

I am proud to be one of the founding members of BBPDX and the results-driven approach has been a breath of fresh air in the business community. Join me and others at this event to cheer on these founders and strengthen the bonds within our city.

Learn why PitchBlack participant Lindsey Murphy and Matt Anderson, CEO of Struck, a creative agency, think supporting PitchBlack embodies what it means to be an ally for equity:

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Monthly Calls-to-Action

Business For A Better Portland issues a call-to-action every month.