West Chester, Pennsylvania – Yesterday evening, Representative Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06) hosted officials from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and local representatives of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) to celebrate and build on the historic agreement between the two entities to reduce the Black wealth gap through entrepreneurship. The NPHC is comprised of nine historically Black fraternities and sororities, also called the “Divine Nine.”
The agreement was signed in June and, according to the SBA, will focus on “increasing financial literacy within traditionally underserved, disadvantaged communities, expanding the SBA’s outreach, and introducing Black entrepreneurs to the SBA’s suite of tools and resources to start and grow their businesses, including access to capital, government contracting opportunities, and counseling.”
“As a former small business owner, I know how incredibly hard it is to turn a good idea into a growing business,” said Houlahan. “I appreciate the SBA’s focus on working with Black entrepreneurs to correct a systemic disparity and am eager to see the wealth gap close for members of our community.”
While Black Americans represent 14.2% of the population, only 2.3% of the 5.7 million businesses with more than one employee are Black-owned, according to the Federal Reserve. This translates to a wealth gap between Black and white families that is almost 8x. In 2019, the year for which the most recent data is available, the median net worth of Black families was $24,100 while the median net worth of white families was $188,200.
“This historic alliance between the SBA and the NPHC – the first of its kind – will bring SBA’s valuable small business resources into reach for many small businesses and entrepreneurs, furthering the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to build equity and close historic wealth gaps that have held back America’s Black entrepreneurs, small business owners and their families for generations,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman when the alliance was announced. “Working alongside partners and allies within the Divine Nine will provide even greater reach for the SBA to better provide the highly entrepreneurial Black community access to networks, financial literacy, technical training, and capital readiness so they can successfully realize their American Dreams of business ownership, create jobs, and advance our economy.”
Participating in the roundtable were Houlahan; SBA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, John F. Fleming; SBA Director, Eastern PA, Steven Dixel; Ayize Glen Gray, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; Chester County Sheriff Fredda Maddox, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Michael Pennyman, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.; Chapter President, Jamal Parker, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.; Chapter President, J. Robin Jones, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; PA State Director of Bigger Better Business, Chuck Gardner, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.; Chapter President, Trudy Logan, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; and Marrea Walker-Smith, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
“Since August is National Black Business Month, this event is also a good opportunity to highlight that and discuss the resources that are available to small businesses,” said Marrea Walker-Smith.
“This meeting was an opportunity for the organizations in the Divine Nine to access vital information that will assist in our efforts to educate, support and provide resources to the communities we service,” said J. Robin Jones.
"As the first national program of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, “Bigger and Better Business" from its inception was imperative to help promote and encourage Black businesses,” said Leonard Bennett, State Director of Bigger Better Business, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. “Emphasis was placed on improvement of business acumen, efficiency, and service. Now almost 100 years later we are in a Partnership with the SBA to continue aiding and providing those same services to our communities. This Strategic Alliance Memorandum between the SBA and the Divine Nine increases the resources available to the community and makes Phi Beta Sigma's goals and objectives more attainable. Networking, capital readiness and technical training should assist in diminishing the wealth gap in our communities.”
“It was great to have a transparent and informative meeting with the SBA representatives and U.S. Representative Houlahan,” said Michael Pennyman.
Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator and a nonprofit leader. She represents Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Small Business Committee. She is the recipient of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Abraham Lincoln Leadership for America Award which “recognizes members who demonstrate the bipartisan leadership and constructive governing necessary to move our country forward.”