On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris hosted 35 young men of color entrepreneurs and business owners, many of whom are HBCU graduates during the “Young Men of Color Small Business Roundtable” at the White House.

Harris spoke to participants about the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to support small businesses and entrepreneurs amidst historic small business growth.

Participants came from more than 15 states and represented a variety of industries, including health care, space, technology, fashion, and more.

Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a “Young Men of Color Small Business Roundtable”, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

According to White House officials, in 2021 and 2022, a record 10.5 million applications for new small businesses were filed, the strongest two years on record, and since President Biden and Vice President Harris took office, small businesses have created 3.1 million jobs.

Additionally, the Administration launched a whole-of-government effort to increase by 50% the share of federal contracts for minority-owned small businesses in 5 years, which amounts to a $100 billion investment in minority-owned businesses.

“We fully understand that when our entrepreneurs and our small-business leaders are strong, America is strong. Because what you do is the work that is, yes, about innovation, it is the work that is spurred by creativity, it is the work we always want to encourage that is about aspiration and ambition, and it is the work that really is the undergird of — of the economy of the United States of America” Harris said when speaking with the entrepreneurs.

Many Historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) graduates were in attendance for the roundtable discussion.

Among those in attendance were: Isaiah Thomas, CEO of Stay Humble Stay Hungry (Lincoln University), Travis Terry, founder of IEMBE (Clark Atlanta University), Ryan Johnson, CEO of Cxmmunity (Oakwood University), Ernest Holmes, co-founder of CODEhouse (Morehouse College), Antonio Brown Jr., co-founder of It Takes One Inc (Morgan State University), Donald Boone, CEO of BoxedUp (North Carolina A&T University), and Norris Williford Jr., CEO of MBM Kicks (Virginia Commonwealth University).

And when I think about our small-business leaders and each of you, I know who you are.  You are not only leaders in business, leaders in innovation, entrepreneurs, but you are also civic leaders.  You are community leaders.  You are role models. You hire locally, you mentor, and you inspire.

– Vice President Kamala Harris to participants at the “Young Men of Color Small Business Roundtable.”
Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a “Young Men of Color Small Business Roundtable”, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

During the roundtable, they discussed ways the Biden-Harris Administration can continue to support and help small businesses to grow, particularly small businesses owned by people of color, and the challenges they face such as “access to capital, access to markets, access to consumers,” according to the Vice President.  

“To that extent, yes, we do talk about equity. We actually believe it is a good principle, in spite of what some so-called leaders might try to suggest” Harris said. “We are proud of the fact that equity is one of our guiding principles, proud of the fact that we understand equality is important, but not everybody starts out on the same base.”

Throughout her career, Vice President Harris has committed to lifting up small businesses and entrepreneurs by increasing their access to capital.

While in the U.S. Senate, she worked to secure more than $12 billion in investments for community lenders and other mission capital providers. As Vice President, she has worked to implement this same funding, working to ensure lenders expand their efforts to drive inclusive entrepreneurship and create high-opportunity communities.

Harris has helped ensure that the U.S. economic recovery is the most equitable on record by making sure investments and resources reach communities that have been historically underserved and left behind. 

In April, the Vice President announced that Treasury’s CDFI Fund has awarded over $1.73 billion in grants to 603 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) across the country through the CDFI Equitable Recovery Program. These funds will strengthen the ability of CDFIs to help low- and moderate-income communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and invest in long-term prosperity.

During the summer of 2022, the Vice President announced a first-of-its-kind public-private sector initiative—the Economic Opportunity Coalition (EOC)— a historic public-private partnership of more than 20 private sector organizations that will invest tens of billions of dollars to create opportunity and grow wealth in historically underserved communities.