Throughout the United States, small businesses and entrepreneurs have been facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The health and economic crisis has created a dire situation for many businesses, as they struggle to remain solvent and access needed supplies, capital and customers.
According to the public policy think tank the Brookings Institution, approximately 54 percent of small businesses, or 4.2 million in the United States, are at risk as a result of COVID-19. Of this total, 26 percent are in the “immediate risk” category, while an additional 28 percent at in the “near-term risk” category.
Multiple Arkansas organizations are joining forces to lend a hand during these difficult times by aiding a demographic of the business community that has been especially hard-hit: entrepreneurs of color.
The Venture Center, Venture Noire, the Greater Bentonville Chamber of Commerce and the Walton Family Foundation have partnered to present “The BIG Pitch,” in which entrepreneurs of color compete in a virtual pitch competition for cash prizes. There will be three categories for companies with different revenues, ranging from companies making $25,000, companies making $25,001-$50,000, and companies making $50,001 or more.
According to The BIG Pitch website, there are expected to be 15 total contestants.
“Entrepreneurs of color face unique challenges in the current environment, including greater difficulty accessing the funds necessary to start and operate their businesses,” Wayne Miller, Executive Director of The Venture Center, said in a statement. “Through The BIG Pitch, we want to help these entrepreneurs sustain their businesses by providing much-needed cash flow for the critical months to come.”
The categories and cash amounts are listed below:
- Category 1: $5,000 cash prize for companies with $1 – $25,000 in annual recurring revenue
- Category 2: $10,000 cash prize for companies with $25,001 – $50,000 in annual recurring revenue
- Category 3: $15,000 cash prize for companies with $50,001+ in annual recurring revenue
In order to qualify for the pitch competition, applicants must be entrepreneurs or CEOs of color, must be a registered and revenue-generating Arkansas business, and must have been in operation for one year or more.
Both the Brookings Institution and consulting firm McKinsey have noted that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely disproportionally impact minority small business owners, including entrepreneurs of color. Both companies note that entrepreneurs will have more difficulty accessing capital.
In a report on black-owned small businesses, McKinsey researchers state, “However, black-owned businesses face more hurdles in accessing liquidity and support services. Black- and minority-owned businesses that continue to operate during and after the recession are about 60 percent less likely than their peers to receive 100 percent of the financing they need,57 which puts them at additional risk of failure.”
“The BIG Pitch is an opportunity for us to be intentional about catalyzing the sustainable growth of entrepreneurs of color in Northwest Arkansas and across the state,” Venture Noire founder Bjorn Simmons said. “As an underserved community, especially as it relates to the capital markets, we hope The BIG Pitch boosts the visibility and resources needed for selected business leaders in the midst of the spiraling uncertainties of today.”
The virtual pitch competition will be held Thursday, June 4, from 3 to 5 p.m.
Applications for The BIG Pitch will close on May 21. Entrepreneurs selected to participate will be notified on May 26.
To apply for the competition or to register to view it, click here.