Prominent local business leaders said Tuesday it’s nice to see the rest of the country take note of something they’ve felt for quite a while: Houston is the best place in the nation to be a minority entrepreneur.
The city recently ranked No. 1 among U.S. cities for cultivating minority-owned businesses, based on such factors as the number and percentage of businesses, the opportunity for finding customers here and the rate at which startups are launched. Researchers also cited a low cost of living that makes it easier for non-Anglo entrepreneurs to thrive.
“I’m excited to see that what we’ve always felt to be true is being documented,” said Courtney Johnson-Rose, chairwoman of the Greater Houston Black Chamber.
Houston ranked at the top, with Dallas and Austin also represented in the top 10, according to the list generated by research group Expert Market. The study found that across the country, 40 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2016 were African-American, Latino, Asian or another non-white ethnicity.
The number of Hispanic entrepreneurs has doubled since 1996, Expert Market found.
Locally, minority entrepreneurs also have gotten more access to capital. The Small Business Administration’s Houston district said the number of SBA-guaranteed loans granted to minority entrepreneurs has grown by more than 200 percent over the last five years.
Tim Jeffcoat, director of the Houston office, said the SBA works with local chambers and city economic programs to raise awareness of available funds for all small businesses. Given Houston’s growing racial and ethnic diversity, it’s natural that minority-owned businesses have seen their numbers and size grow as a result, he said.
Jeffcoat and others found the report’s finding and ranking unsurprising, yet welcomed the spotlight from a third-party entity.
Houston’s minority-run businesses are more than mom-and-pop stores, said Joset Wright-Lacy, president of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Many are successful supply companies servicing large corporations, she said, and Houston hosts many pilot programs that aim to connect minority suppliers and the corporations.
Laura Murillo, president and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said much of the overall minority business growth in Houston can be attributed to local partnerships across ethnic communities. For instance, she said, 40 percent of the Hispanic chamber’s board are non-Hispanic.
“We have gone out of our way to attract and engage non-Hispanics,” Murillo said. “We’re not just a Hispanic chamber, we’re a Houston chamber.”
For Murillo, the city’s distinction in Expert Market’s report is yet another indicator of how successfully the city has embraced economic diversity.
“Slowly but surely,” she said, “Houston is solidifying its place as the epicenter of entrepreneurship.”
Efforts by the local Hispanic and Black chambers are ongoing. The Greater Houston Black Chamber in February launched the digital “Buy Black” directory promoting more than 500 vetted member businesses to better connect them with corporations looking for minority suppliers.
It’s been viewed more than 45,000 times since it went live, Johnson-Rose said.
“The desire to support black-owned businesses has always been there, but people need the tools to access them,” she added.
Later this month, the chamber will sponsor the weeklong Black Enterprise Summit to bring together thousands of African-American business owners for networking and cash-prize pitch competitions. There will be a “Shark Tank” casting call.