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Fashion photographer Nikki Gomez was born and raised in New York City. But in November, on a tip from a friend, she joined Tulsa Remote, a one-year program that gives eligible workers a $10,000 grant if they relocate to Tulsa, Oklahoma. “I was like, why not?” Gomez said. “I’m sure I can make a living in Tulsa doing what I do.” 

Gomez, 43, now spends her days on the streets of Tulsa, camera in hand, working with models in front of vibrant red walls or capturing customers in the essence of their everyday lives.

Moving to Tulsa has given her room to grow as an entrepreneur, she said, and she’s already thought of three additional business endeavors that would work in the city.  

“For a long time, the narrative was, if you wanted to do anything in your career or your life, you need to be on either coast — LA or New York,” she said. “Tulsa is a place where dreams come true. All of the things that I would think I wanted that I couldn’t really grasp in New York, I’m able to attain here and really thrive.” 

In three years, the Tulsa Remote program has drawn about 500 workers to the city, whose history is steeped in Black entrepreneurship. (The program doesn’t collect information on race or ethnicity.)

Once home to Black Wall Street — a thriving, self-sufficient Black community in the time of Jim Crow laws, before a white mob burned it to the ground — Tulsa has become one of several case studies in how America can better support its Black-owned businesses.

Small businesses make up 99% of American companies and employ nearly half of the country’s workforce.

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But of the 2 million Black-owned businesses in America, fewer than 125,000 employ any workers at all, Fundera found, which means they’re almost entirely “solopreneurs.” And professor Robert W. Fairlie found that 41% of Black-owned businesses shuttered in the first two months of COVID-19, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses.

Building Black wealth is crucial to solving racial inequality, and research shows that entrepreneurship is a powerful tool in doing so. The Federal Reserve found in 2019 that families with a self-employed breadwinner had a net worth more than four times that of families headed by someone employed by another company. White families are more likely to have equity in a private business than Black families — 16.9% versus just 4.8%.

Insider’s reporting suggests there are four key levers local governments can pull on to transform Black entrepreneurship from a grassroots effort into a national priority. Those levers are providing fast, affordable internet access; strengthening forms of community support; awarding more government contracts; and decreasing the cost of living. These priorities have never been more urgent for small-business owners, and Black owners in particular.

There are four US cities creating a blueprint for the rest of the country on how to address the most pressing issues: Chattanooga, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Here’s how they’re doing it. 

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Source:: Business Insider

      

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