COVID-19 profoundly affected minority-owned small businesses. However, these small businesses have experienced long-term underinvestment in entrepreneurship and business development. Ethnic entrepreneurship is a socio-spatial process; therefore strengthening social and economic relationships between communities and business can prepare businesses for future disruptions.
Investments in technology, education, and social network building can ensure minority-owned businesses are building resilience. Planners have an urgent role in supporting an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem through a transformational agenda that expands opportunities for underrepresented voices and challenges existing power structures.
In "Planning for an Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem" Journal of the American Planning Association (Vol. 89, No. 3), Qingfang Wang explores the experiences of Latina-owned businesses (LaOBs) in inland Southern California in building resiliency through the pandemic.
Resilient businesses are those that thrive after a disaster, returning to or exceeding pre-disaster levels of employment and wages. Wang concludes with takeaways for the urban planning field in supporting economic and community development for ethnic and minority-owned businesses (EMOBs).
Wang draws on evolutionary resilience perspectives through an equity lens. This approach focuses on transformational capacity building and cultivating cooperation at various scales to learn and adapt to shocks.
The author supplemented a literature review with in-depth interviews and focus group discussions before and following the start of COVID-19 with stakeholders across sectors. Through this fieldwork, Wang highlights challenges and draws connections between these for LaOBs before and after the COVID-19 outbreak to underscore compounding effects when disastrous events occur.
Wang's work revealed three critical aspects in understanding business resilience in underserved communities.
- Pre-existing socioeconomic vulnerabilities, such as social structures, economic inequality, and disparities in accessing resources, play a role during periods of economic renewal for minority households and their businesses.
- Business and community resilience are mutually dependent, bringing both resources and constraints in building resilience.
- Businesses and communities interact at multiple scales. They involve collaborative efforts across individuals, organizations, networks, and institutions.
The author provides targeted practice and policy recommendations to different stakeholders in this ecosystem (Table 1).
Table 5: Recommendations to different stakeholders
Setting a transformational agenda requires meaningfully engaging with the needs and aspirations of EMOBs and their communities. Wang calls for forward thinking that rejects a legacy of exclusionary practices for LaOBs, like many other EMOBs. Ultimately, leveraging an adaptive and relational process with local communities and the regional entrepreneurship ecosystem can help businesses thrive.
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Top image: iStock/Getty Images Plus - Ridofranz
About the author
Jess Shakesprere is a master in urban planning candidate at Harvard University.