This new coalition represents various business owners in Philadelphia. What are their prospects for 2022?


Decreased pedestrian traffic to storefronts. Limited access to capital. Mental anguish in the midst of racial injustice.

For these and more reasons, the pandemic has been a particularly difficult time for BIPOC business owners and others from diverse backgrounds in Philadelphia and beyond. Black-owned businesses, in particular, closed at a faster pace in 2020 than white-owned businesses. But for the past 18+ months, leaders of local minority-focused chambers of commerce have supported them through education, marketing and funding.

With the new Coalition of various chambers, they want to give these business owners an even greater chance to succeed by sharing resources and advocating for their collective needs, speaking “with a united voice on issues that members align themselves with. ‘unanimity,’ according to a press release.

The coalition is made up of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia (GPHCC) President and CEO Jennifer rodriguez, African American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ & DE (AACC) President and CEO Regina Hairston, Business Alliance for Independence (aka the city’s LGBTQ chamber) Executive Director Zach Wilcha and Greater Philadelphia Asian-American Chamber of Commerce President of the council Narasimha Shenoy.

“Over the past year and a half of the pandemic, a lesson learned is that the issues of diverse small and microenterprises were not understood and poorly served. It is absolutely necessary to focus on these businesses to help them create jobs that contribute to the local and regional economy, ”Shenoy said in a statement. “Various rooms are organized to meet the unique needs of its businesses. The Diverse Chambers Coalition will collectively advocate to better serve our various small and micro businesses in order to develop the local and regional economy.

Technically heard Rodríguez, Hairston and Wilcha talk about the morale of their constituents over the past year and the opportunities and challenges ahead in 2022; we have also contacted Shenoy and will update this story if we have any news. Here’s what they said:

How have the voters you work with fared in 2021 so far compared to 2020?

Rodriguez: More than a year after the start of the pandemic, Latino entrepreneurs have demonstrated their resilience. Although heavily affected by the pandemic, our businesses have largely adapted and survived with few reported closures.

With the support of our partners, GPHCC was able to provide $ 45,000 in micro-grants and help leverage over $ 1.2 million in PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] ready for our members. In addition, 13 companies that participated in our Speed ​​Up Latinx The program not only kept 66 jobs, but created 20 more during the pandemic.

Hair : In the first weeks and months of the pandemic, black-owned businesses were trying to weather the storm of closings, lost profits and business closings that made it difficult to maintain a successful business. Black-owned businesses have found themselves turning to government, CDFIs and more for help. At AACC, we have stepped in as a link to connect them with the necessary resources.

Here in 2021 we are starting to see signs that the recovery is possible. On behalf of the Chamber, we have refocused on creating lasting partnerships with regional societies so that our Chamber members are connected to resources to help them rebuild and recover.

Wilcha: Compared to 2020, our members whose businesses have survived have adapted to the challenges of 2021, whether it is a recovery or a backbone of their entire business. There have been so many government initiatives, like the PPP, [Economic Injury Disaster Loans], or the City of Philadelphia Grants / Loans, which have filled the gaps necessary for our businesses, and now people are finding ways to do business in a new world.

The panic of 2020 has partly dissipated, but the recovery process continues and will extend well beyond 2022. For example, many members of our community own businesses or are employed in the tourism industry and hospitality, and this sector has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Businesses on 60th Street have closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo courtesy of Jabari Jones of West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative)

What big challenges or opportunities do you see for voters in 2022?

Rodriguez: Companies have developed new capabilities, especially in the technological field. Many have developed a strong social media presence, including new channels to sell products and services. The challenge, and the opportunity, is to help them grow to reach and exceed $ 1 million in revenue, and to present them with contracting opportunities with government, businesses and institutions that will help them achieve this goal. . GPHCC is ready to do this through our Accelerate Latinx scale-up program and through our Build latino capacity building program for companies in the construction sector.

Hair : We are certainly not out of the woods yet. The pandemic and its effects are still looming on business bottom lines and it’s obvious, but we’re making sure there are plenty of opportunities for black business owners in the region. For the African American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ & DE – our time will be spent expanding our programs that help businesses get back on their feet and build a strong network of black-owned businesses where connections can be made. favored.

Wilcha: The main challenge for our member companies is that much of the help available over the past year, in the form of grants and loans, will slowly disappear. Plus, there are still so many unknowns to come, as the pandemic persists. We are fortunate to live in a region that has embraced the effectiveness of vaccines and masks, but our businesses still operate with extreme caution with no end to the pandemic in sight.

I have spoken to several companies who have taken this historic moment as an opportunity to reset. Rather than simply reopening their business to what it was before the pandemic, they are positioning their reopening as “version 2.0” of their business. Many also take the opportunity to create new business plans. Prices, customer trends and other key metrics are completely different from what they were 20 months ago. Companies take seriously the fact that they must now plan to do business in the world we currently live in, not the world we want.

Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of the Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-

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