Vanessa Savage (right) acts as CEO for her husband Frederick’s (left) company, Savage Technical Services. As one of the mentees in the program, Savage has learned new cash flow strategies and how to prepare for unexpected costs that arise during contracts. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

Although Black people represent nearly 13% of the total U.S. population, only 4% own small businesses, according to JPMorgan Chase. Systemic racism has exacerbated economic inequality and prevented minority entrepreneurs from accessing the capital and the resources they need to make their businesses successful. 

In 2020, JPMorgan Chase announced its $30 billion Path Forward commitment to advance racial equity and fight the structural barriers that have contributed to the racial wealth gap. Under the commitment, the firm has worked in underserved communities to bridge housing gaps, teach financial literacy and grow Black and Latinx-owned businesses. 

In its latest effort, Chase for Business in June launched a new program to advance the growth of Black-owned businesses in the D.C., Virginia and Maryland area. Through the program, business owners will have access to one on one coaching, community resources, educational seminars and banking and credit solutions. To be eligible for the program, the companies must have been in business for two years and have a revenue over $100,000. 

“From the top-down, our firm believes that there were some racial inequities that we wanted to address in both the Black and Latinx communities and that by working to empower these communities we can facilitate a better domestic economy for all,” said Kristina Sicard, senior business banking consultant for JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan Chase senior business consultants Kristina Sicard and Darla Harris lead the new Chase for Business program. They perform a comprehensive business analysis to determine where Black businesses can expand and grow. (Courtesy Photo)

Sicard and her colleague, Darla Harris, are heading the three to six month free program. Their role is to sit down with business owners to perform an extensive business analysis. The duo assess their operations management, financial picture, business returns and books reconciliation, as well as determine opportunities for expansion and better financial management.

“It’s going to be business specific based on where we do an analysis and figure out what each business needs to be successful and get to the next step or whatever their individual goals are,” said Sicard. 

Vanessa Savage, one of the business mentees, is the CEO of her husband’s electrical contracting company, Savage Technical Services. The business is located in the Anacostia neighborhood in D.C., and when the pandemic hit, the couple lost a considerable amount of contracts. “We had to pivot and just do things totally different,” said Savage. While attending a mentorship program led by the Taproot Foundation, she connected with Sicard, who volunteered as an expert to help companies with their pain points 

When Chase for Business officially launched its new program, Sicard invited her to participate. Savage entered the program to learn how to better manage business operations and cash flow, as well as to garner a better understanding of her profit margins. 

“We’ve looked at how we do our estimates because what we have to do is before we actually go in to do the project, we have to estimate what our costs are going to be,” said Savage. “It’s been really helpful with the suggestions that Kristina has given us because we’re trying to make everything transparent so we can look at it right away in real time.” 

According to Sicard, Black and Latinx businesses often start off at a rapid pace but are unable to achieve the same return that their counterparts do based on their sweat equity. Through this program, she hopes to change this dynamic. “I want to see them not only put their blood, sweat and tears into their business, but look at opportunities to create retirement for themselves, set up things for their kids and have a good work life balance,” said Sicard. “ to create a better dynamic for our communities in general.” 

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