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Getting Funding as a Minority-Owned Business Shouldn't Be a Far-Fetched Dream. Here's How This CEO is Making Public Capital More Available to All. Historically, minority-owned businesses have faced barriers that limit their access to public capital and other necessary financial resources essential for scaling operations, innovating products, and expanding into new markets. It shouldn't be this way — raising public capital should be accessible for all, not just a privileged few.

By Joe Cecala Edited by Kara McIntyre

Key Takeaways

  • Ensuring that raising public capital is no longer just a dream — and especially not a nightmare — for minority-owned businesses requires a concerted effort to address the biases and structural inequality that permeate the financial landscape for small businesses.
  • By transforming how public capital access is structured and supported, we can unlock the full potential of every entrepreneur, helping to build a prosperous economic future for all people.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The entrepreneurship landscape is diverse, reflecting the rich tapestry of our society, yet this diversity is scarcely mirrored in the financial sector. Consider the telling statistics: Minority-owned publicly traded companies represent a mere 0.2% of exchange-listed companies. This stark underrepresentation underscores a broader issue of access to capital available in public capital markets.

Moreover, the significant role that initial public offerings (IPOs) play in job creation is critical, with 92% of job growth occurring post-IPO, according to the U.S. Treasury Department Task Force on IPOs. The decline of small-to-mid-sized IPOs since 2000 has negatively affected all entrepreneurs — and with the small number of minority public companies, minority entrepreneurs have little dream of going public, leaving many without the crucial capital needed to expand and thrive.

The death of small public companies and the underrepresentation of minority-owned businesses in public capital markets is more than a statistic; it reflects structural issues that require a shift in how stock exchanges create access to public capital across our nation. While only a small fraction of such businesses are listed on major exchanges, their potential to drive innovation and job creation through access to public capital is immense. Historically, the financial sector has not effectively catered to the diversity of the business landscape, often sidelining those without established connections or significant starting capital.

Related: The Challenges in Getting Funding for Women and Minority-Owned Businesses, And How to Solve Them

The impact of inclusive financing

Inclusive financing isn't merely a moral imperative; it's economically advantageous. When diverse businesses thrive, they ignite local economies, create jobs and foster a competitive market full of innovative ideas and services. Private capital markets with a focus on underrepresented firms have made significant strides toward a more inclusive investment landscape. Take, for example, Serena Williams, whose venture firm has invested in 14 unicorn companies. Remarkably, her firm's portfolio includes 79% founders from underrepresented groups, 54% women founders, 47% Black founders and 11% Latino founders.

These numbers are not just statistics; they are a testament to the untapped potential within these communities. Williams's success in backing these ventures demonstrates a causative approach toward inclusive investing and has the potential to create a positive impact on the broader economy, driving innovation and growth in sectors that have been historically overlooked.

Rethinking public markets

Rethinking how public markets operate involves creating pathways for all entrepreneurs, especially minority-owned businesses, to participate fully and fairly. This means reconsidering everything from regulatory frameworks to the structure of exchanges themselves. The traditional one-size-fits-all model of stock exchanges does not address the unique challenges smaller companies face, including many minority-led firms. There is a pressing need for financial service firms that offer tailored financial products and services, providing the necessary support to navigate the complexities of going public.

Understanding the challenges is only the first step; addressing them is where the real work begins. At Dream Exchange, we are committed to transforming the landscape for smaller companies, most of whom are minority-owned businesses, by providing an exchange philosophy more tailored to their needs. The traditional stock exchange model has not just failed to support these small businesses; it has actively excluded small companies by catering primarily to large, established companies that easily generate liquidity and create large trading volumes. Our mission is to level this playing field by focusing on solutions that address these specific challenges.

A new type of stock exchange, known as a venture exchange, is proposed as the needed stock exchange framework fully outlined in the bipartisan Main Street Growth Act. This structural change offers a beacon of hope to small companies. These exchanges are designed to cater to small- to mid-sized businesses, providing them with the liquidity, regulatory oversight and transparent reporting that are often reserved for their larger counterparts. By tailoring our approach to the needs of these businesses, we aim to nurture them from baby small public companies to thriving, established public companies.

Related: 6 Ways to Offer Allyship to Black Entrepreneurs

Why this matters: Economic inclusion and beyond

Introducing a new exchange model is more than a business initiative; it's a crucial step toward economic parity for all. By enabling access to public capital markets, we are opening doors to an entire community of underserved market participants to build wealth, create jobs and contribute more significantly to the economy. This is not just about correcting a market inefficiency; it's about rewriting the narrative of economic power and creating equal opportunity for all.

In a broader sense, supporting minority-owned businesses through equal access to capital is essential for fostering a diverse and resilient economy. Diversity in business is essential to all of our lives. Diverse businesses are the place where an imagination of our future can grow. Diverse leadership in the roll of director, founder, executive and employment leads to a proliferation of unique ideas and innovations, which stimulates broader economic growth and stability for all people. It's high time the public financial marketplace makes a deliberate effort to reflect the diversity of our society, recognizing the value and potential of all entrepreneurs, regardless of their background.

Ensuring that raising public capital is no longer just a dream — and especially not a nightmare — for minority-owned businesses requires a concerted effort to address the biases and structural inequality that permeate the financial landscape for small businesses. By transforming how public capital access is structured and supported, we can unlock the full potential of every entrepreneur, helping to build a prosperous economic future for all people. Let us not just wait for change; let us be the architects of it.

Joe Cecala

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder & CEO, Dream Exchange

Joe Cecala is the founder and CEO of the Dream Exchange, the first minority company to operate a stock exchange in the history of the United States.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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