As the impact of COVID-19 has been widening the income gap in major American cities, it’s more important than ever that financial institutions renew their efforts to support and create opportunities in Black communities around the country.
With a six-city strategy, Mastercard reaffirms its $500 million In Solidarity commitment to invest in Black communities. Mastercard is continuing to invest in Black-owned small businesses, increase financial literacy and education, uplift HBCUs and bring more Black Americans into the digital economy. Mastercard has been a longtime partner of St. Louis and Missouri more broadly, boasting an office with hundreds of employees and local partnerships in neighboring O’Fallon, but the In Solidarity Initiative has brought an exciting new energy to the city’s business community. This summer marks year two of Mastercard’s In Solidarity Initiative and partnerships in the city. The recent events included celebrating financial literacy with high school students, holding a forum with local stakeholders, and meeting with Black small business owners.
“We know that access to capital is the biggest impediment to the success of Black small business owners. Only 1% of startup funds go to Black entrepreneurs. We know that more must be done to create pathways in financing and support for Black-owned small businesses to create the next generation of Black wealth,” shared Salah Goss, Senior Vice President of Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. Goss leads programs focused on financial inclusion, racial equity and small business growth.
“It is not enough for startups and nonprofits to offer a service. We must all come together to create a multiplier effect to create truly substantive and meaningful progress. I felt that magic happening when we came together in St. Louis, and I feel it when we travel to each stop on our roadshow. Creating change that is long lasting is really hard. We can only hope to create that kind of change together.”
Through programs like Digital Doors and partnerships with and investments in Fearless Fund, Mastercard has been helping bridge the racial wealth and opportunity gap by providing crucial resources to small businesses and entrepreneurs who have been historically left out.
Arian Simone, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fearless Fund, said, “Fearless Fund partnered with Mastercard to fund and support Black women-owned businesses and provide them with mentorship, advanced digital operations and new opportunities. We expanded that partnership this year to provide additional grants and bring educational opportunities, awareness and news platforms for women and minority-owned businesses across the United States.”
At this year’s event, Fearless Fund and Mastercard offered a $10,000 grant to Hoba Smith, a Black woman small business owner in St. Louis, so she could expand her flower business, Floral Play. Smith happily shared that she intends to purchase a refrigerated box truck which will make it easier to transport floral arrangements. “Greatness would come” from the grant she said.
By investing in businesses making a meaningful impact in Saint Louis, Mastercard is bringing a long term, community-centered approach to corporate responsibility.
“The work is far from over,” says Goss. “In some ways, we are only just getting started. I hope we are creating a playbook for how public-private partnerships are critical and how a company can support the initiatives that are important to local communities. I hope we can meaningfully edge the wealth gap closer together so that future generations of Black Americans can realize their full potential.”