At the event, Senator Pichardo discussed the challenges faced by very small businesses. Micro-businesses, or businesses with fewer than 10 employees, comprise 98 percent of the businesses in Senate District 2, he noted, with the majority being minority-owned and having just one or two employees. Micro-businesses face particular challenges, such as access to credit, finding skilled employees, zoning and use restrictions and the challenge of expanding the business, said Senator Pichardo. The principal challenge for micro-businesses is access to financing. For these very small companies, securing financing in todays market is at best time-consuming and uncertain. More likely, it is simply impossible.
Sen. Pichardo called for working together to find creative solutions, and commended the work of Urban Ventures in addressing the challenges through programs such as Certified Bankability and Certified Investability. Sen. Pichardo said he is planning to host a summit on micro-businesses in 2015 to further advance the discussion and promote creative actions to address the challenges they face.
At the event, the US Small Business Administrations Rhode Island Director, Mark S. Hayward, moderated a panel discussion on challenges facing minority small business owners. Panelists were Carmen Diaz-Justino, Senior Program manager with the Center for Women and Enterprise; JR Neville Songwe, Executive Director of Urban Ventures; Lisa Ranglin, Founder and President of the Rhode Island Black Business Association; and Tomas Avila of the Rhode Island Latino Professional Business Network.
In addition, HealthSourceRI Director Christine Ferguson led a presentation on what HealthSourceRI means for Rhode Island small business owners, and Department of Labor and Training Director Charles J. Fogarty presented information about the Self-Employment Assistance Program the department administers.