A new series of workshops is being launched by NYC’s Comptroller’s Office to help the city’s women and minority owned businesses thrive in 2021.

Scott Stringer’s Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) University Series kicks off March 23.

It offers a year-long range of online workshops with the purpose of expanding aid and opportunities for small businesses and MWBEs impacted by COVID-19.

The workshops are offered in 12 different languages

“If we’re going to rebuild to a true five-borough economy, we have to make sure our MWBEs are successful,” Stringer said. “Local community wealth creation depends on giving these businesses a fair shot.” 

The first workshop is on how to access capital and credit, even when in the middle of a crisis. Other workshops are geared to help MWBEs get certified with the City, navigate the procurement process and secure City contracts.

NYC’s poor track record

While City agencies have been making strides to deliver more contracts to MWBEs, major gaps remain, Stringer said. In 2019, only 4.9% of New York City’s total contracts went to MWBEs. 

Seven years ago his office started looking into who City agencies were giving contracts to. It discovered there were “deep inequities” and an unequal playing field for the city’s female business owners and business owners of color.

Despite that discovery all those years ago, City Hall has continued to fail New York’s MWBEs by ignoring the barriers to access to contract with the city, he said.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer Photo: The Brooklyn Reader.

“As thousands of businesses struggle to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, my office is doing everything in our power to help small businesses and MWBEs rebuild stronger than ever,” Stringer said.

The other workshops so far include lessons on what it takes to become a board director, how to put diversity at the heart of your business and ways to do business with the Comptroller’s Office.

There are also University workshops advertised that lean towards networking events: one where minority and women asset managers can connect with City pension consultants and another emerging manager conference.

Finally, Stringer is also inviting NYC Agencies to a University workshop where they can learn to plan procurements with diversity in mind.

Worse for MWBEs

The pandemic has been particularly devastating to New York’s minority and women owned businesses.

A 2020 National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) analysis found that the number of active business owners in the United States fell by 3.3 million between February and April 2020.

Women-owned businesses declined by 25%, Black-owned businesses by 41%, Latino-owned businesses by 32%, and Asian-owned businesses by 26%. Meanwhile, only 17% of white-owned businesses closed. 

There are also online networking events. Photo: Pexels.

Despite this, there are reasons to be optimistic, NYC Small Business Services Commissioner Jonell Doris said

Prior to the pandemic, she said they saw women-owned businesses growing at a “staggering rate,” with firms owned by women of color increasing by 43%, nearly five times faster than all other businesses.

She said NYC was also home to the largest concentration of women-owned businesses nationwide.

“These businesses are vital to our city’s economic growth – and in 2019 employed 321,000 people, generating $71 billion annually.”

Small Business Services is also offering resources to help women entrepreneurs through the pandemic. To see the full schedule of MWBE University events and RSVP click here.

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Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a freelance writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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