April 2022

Columbus Chamber to expand its program supporting Black-owned businesses

Courtesy of Columbus Business First
By Hayleigh Colombo
April 7, 2022

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce is more than doubling its relatively new program to provide chamber membership and support to Black-owned businesses in Central Ohio.

The Urban Business Connection, which was launched in partnership with the Columbus Urban League, plans to add 45 more businesses to the original cohort of 30 businesses.

The goal of the program is not only to provide minority-owned businesses with the networking that chamber membership provides, but also to increase the businesses’ bottom lines and boost sales.

“We’re making sure that these emerging businesses are solid financially,” said Columbus Chamber President Don DePerro.

Expansion is possible with the help of $175,000 in funding from Columbus City Council.

The program launched last year. The 30 original businesses are already “really making an impact on Columbus,” said Lorie Holt, the chamber’s vice president of member services.

Holt said that not only have included businesses been able to grow their sales, but chamber membership is also helping them market their businesses to the rest of Central Ohio, as well as take advantage of affinity programs like small-group health insurance, discounted office supplies and credit-card processing, utility savings and more.

“We want to enhance visibility in the marketplace,” Hold said. “What we did in year one was great. We achieved those goals. In year two, we want to expand that even more.”

DePerro said although the program was launched in response to a renewed community conversation around racial justice following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, its impact is only spreading.

The next goal, he said, is to help minority-owned businesses with access to capital.

“We’ve got some really ambitious plans,” DePerro said. “This isn’t going to be just a reaction to George Floyd. This will be an integral part of everything we’re doing.”

Sherrice Thomas, vice president of diversity, equity, inclusion and access for the chamber, said the program is ultimately about “helping the Columbus region grow and thrive.”

“If we can help them become even more sustainable and grow their businesses, they help other businesses grow,” Thomas said. “It’s not just us helping then, it’s bringing what they have to the table and helping us as well. If you think about African American culture, that’s what we do. When we come up, we help others come up.”

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