USC program builds entrepreneurial leaders in LA community – Annenberg Media


The Los Angeles business community has faced financial hardship since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. USC Bridges to Business Success Program is tackling these economic insecurities by teaching Los Angeles entrepreneurs disproportionately affected by the pandemic the skills to help their businesses recover.

The program largely focuses on businesses run by ex-combatants, women and other marginalized groups. It covers hot topics, as the struggles typically faced by business owners from marginalized groups, such as obtaining loans, financing and other resources, have been made more difficult by the pandemic.

To 2021 H&R Block study The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses found that 53% of black business owners in the United States saw their incomes cut in half, compared to 37% of white business owners.

In addition to the drop in income, the Brooking Institution used data from the Small Business Credit Survey 2018 to find that large banks approve about three in five loans sought by white business owners, compared with half of those sought by Hispanic or Latin American owners and less than 30% of those sought by black small business owners .

These are just a few of the factors that work against business owners in marginalized communities during times of heightened economic hardship.

“As a result of the pandemic, many business owners, especially minority business owners, have not been able to secure some of the access to capital to support their businesses, to get them through this period. criticism in which we lived. “said Vikita Poindexter, commercial insurance manager for the program.” These programs have provided these resources.

The Bridges to Business Success program supports essential businesses that serve the LA community by offering one-on-one coaching and training workshops to enhance owners’ entrepreneurial skills and help them grow their businesses.

Founded in 2011, the program started as an initiative designed to help small businesses in the construction industry grow their businesses and make more connections, said Rocio Flores, program administrator for Civic Engagement and Economic Partnerships. of USC.

Coaches, including entrepreneurs, business owners and university professors, form a cohort of entrepreneurs during a 10-week program. The instruction includes specialized training from 12 distinguished professionals who help participants improve their presentation skills and presentations. They also share important knowledge and tools necessary for business growth and expansion.

“My role is twofold here,” said Liz Garcia, leadership coach for the program. “I do one-on-one coaching based on the needs of each individual, and I also give a three-hour training session for each cohort where I go over all the topics and help them understand what it means to build effective relationships with their employees. “

The tailor-made assistance provided to all cohort members enables entrepreneurs to create strategic business plans based on their individual needs.

“USC offers business owners the opportunity to get the mentorship and coaching they need to start a business, grow their business and take businesses to the next level,” said Flores.

Participants also maintain relationships with other entrepreneurs during the program, so that they can learn from each other and build a network of support and empowerment.

“A lot of what participants get in this program is community,” Garcia said. “It’s such a big part of helping people. Bridges has helped other entrepreneurs get through the pandemic and stay afloat, showing they can get by. “

Celina Estrada, owner of a business in Los Angeles, joined the 2021 cohort to help her grow her business Cereus Bloom Life Coaching. Estrada knew she wanted to support young people by developing solutions and actions to improve their lives in Los Angeles, but needed help deciding which insurance to use for liability reasons and how to market her business to be. more attractive to schools.

“I really appreciated the coaching they offered,” said Estrada. “I also liked the networking and all the local resources. It really helped a lot.

Estrada said she has also acquired the financial skills to support her business. She hopes to have a contract to work with the schools by the end of the year and would like to give back to Bridges to Business and the wider USC community by working with the program someday.

“I really had the impression [the program] has created a community of people who are in the same boat, who are trying to do good but could have setbacks, ”Estrada said. “We just have this goal and this vision that we want to implement and so we help each other. “

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