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Activists discuss building wealth through business

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Activists discuss building wealth through business

BECMA Executive Director Segun Idowu. BANNER FILE PHOTO

As Black businesses struggle to recover from COVID-19, local experts have gathered to talk solutions and resources to rebuild Black wealth amidst the ongoing crisis. In partnership with the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) and Berkshire Bank, former Bay State Banner Editor Howard Manly moderated a panel on “Helping Black Businesses Thrive.”

The panelists, including U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, criticized the response from elected officials. Pressley said that protections for small businesses left Black business owners at a disadvantage. She and others in the Congressional Black Caucus thought that the Paycheck Protection Program loans, once available, would be problematic, she said.

“We knew immediately, those that have those preexisting relationships [with banks] were going to be at an advantage,” Pressley said. She added that faith-based institutions and nonprofits were eligible for loans for the first time, creating more competition for the funds. “That’s another reason why this was so challenging.”

BECMA Executive Director Segun Idowu brought up that poor banking relationships amplified issues with PPP loans for Black businesses.

“We also had seen reports about Bank of America not lending to certain businesses, and one of them happened to be Black or brown. And it’s because they didn’t have the right banking relationship with them. So they all had personal accounts, but they didn’t have business accounts,” Idowu said.

He called the program rushed and said that it lacked an equity lens. According to a July 2020 study by Amplify Latinx, while 81% of PPP loans were approved for white business owners, for black-owned businesses the approval rate was 71%. Since the study was released, Idowu has advocated for Pressley’s Save our Streets Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Kamala Harris.

Pressley said that she and Harris are still finding co-sponsors and lobbying for the bill.

“Our bill will provide targeted relief and funding to our smallest businesses, those that are simply too small to fail — our beauty salons, or barber shops, or bodegas, or restaurants,” she said.

To highlight the importance of banking relationships, Karleen Porcena spoke about her role as a “MyBanker” at Berkshire Bank, where she works directly with small businesses. By taking on organizations regardless of income, Porcena says Berkshire was able to respond faster when businesses needed it most.

“We know that Black businesses don’t have strong relationships with their banks. It’s not something that’s new. It’s not because of PPP, it’s because of the historical context … and the distrust that they have within Black communities in particular,” Porcena said.

After speaking with Black business owners, she knew that other banks were rejecting them or not returning a response at all.

“It was on us to be responsive,” Porcena said. “You couldn’t wait three, four or five weeks, because we saw how quick the first round went.”

Idowu gave credit to the city of Boston for funding PPP and providing grants for small businesses, but explained that his focus is now on helping businesses build capital.

He mentioned The Foundation for Business Equity, founded by Eastern Bank, which is dedicated to closing the racial wealth gap in Massachusetts and is currently assisting the state’s COVID-19 emergency relief fund.

“They take small- to medium-sized companies, and not only provide this wraparound support, but also inject them with capital to be able to scale up,” Idowu said. Now, the foundation is looking to replicate that model for micro businesses.

When defining Black wealth, the panelists chose security as the focal point — Porcena says if the median net worth of Blacks in Boston is $8, it’s imperative to put that $8 into a bank. Teresa Maynard, owner of Sweet Teaz Bakery, said the Beyond Six Feet Apart cohorts program run by LISC Boston helped her maintain revenue throughout the pandemic without costing her thousands of dollars in consulting money.

“There were three consultants that helped really move my business and help me with the pivot that I’m getting ready to do,” Maynard said.

Other resources the panel suggested are the nonprofit Small Business Strong, the Small Business Resource Center at the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, and Msaada Partners, which are all focused on communities of color.

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Business owner says sign is not racist

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“It’s kind of sad that people go to these extents to read into stuff and twist and turn a question. [It’s] not a racist question. I am not a racist,” Mike told WTRF, adding that he has Black customers and deliverymen. “The racist stuff is just somebody twisting and turning, and it’s ridiculous. Everything right now is very high tension, and this might be some of it, some way that people try to let the steam go.”

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SpaceX is rapidly growing its Internet satellite business

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With an eventual public offering in mind, SpaceX is ramping up its Starlink Internet service, as it’s slated to launch another 60 satellites on Wednesday.

The launch, according to a list from the Federal Aviation Administration, is slated to happen from Cape Canaveral, Fla. It will take place at 12:36 p.m. EDT on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, according to SpaceflightNow.com.

On Sunday, SpaceX launched another group of 60 satellites, which the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company said will provide “high-speed broadband Internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive or completely unavailable.”

MUSK’S SPACEX WINS PENTAGON AWARD FOR MISSING-TRACKING SATELLITES

More than 700 satellites have been launched, according to CNet, which also notes that 60 of the older satellites are in the process of deorbiting

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SpaceX continues to bolster its service ahead of its public launch, scheduled for later this year. On Monday, SpaceX teamed with Microsoft to use its Azure cloud computing service to help connect and deploy new services for its Starlink unit.

The Musk-led company has said it is targeting service in the northern part of the U.S. and Canada this year, but has not given an exact time frame yet.

In the past, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said that the company will “probably” take its Starlink Internet business public, but only when it has “predictable” and “smooth” revenue growth.

MICROSOFT TEAMS WITH ELON MUSK’S SPACEX TO PUSH CLOUD BATTLE WITH AMAZON INTO ORBIT

In October 2019, Musk sent a tweet using the Starlink satellite system.

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In April, Musk said there were 420 Starlink satellites in space.

In July, Morgan Stanley said SpaceX could be worth as much as $175 billion if Musk’s Starlink Internet service is successful.

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Kilani Bakery in business 61 years turns to social media to bring in customers

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WAHIAWA, (KHON2) — To survive the pandemic, small businesses have had to adapt to the ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines. Many long-time local businesses have also had to find new creative ways to bring in customers amid the pandemic.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

One of those businesses is Kilani Bakery, a Wahiawa gem that has been serving the community for 61 years.

The bakery is old school. It first opened in 1959 on Kilani Avenue in Wahiawa.

“We literally have the best customers, and it’s because of them that we keep going,” said Dawn Takara, the manager of the bakery.

Sidney Takara’s father started the tiny, humble bakery.

“I worked in the bakery washing dishes, doing little things I picked up here and there,” said Sidney Takara about his childhood.

Eventually, the bakery expanded to its current location at 704 Kilani Ave., and Sidney Takara and his brother Jeffrey took over the business.

Dawn Takara said the bakery is hard work.

“My husband and my son, they start at about six in the evening and then they go from there, and then another baker comes in about one o’clock [in the morning],” she explained.

Sidney Takara said working through the night is worth it for his community.

“I meet people at the bank like on a weekend, the teller and is there and says, ‘Oh yeah, I used to go there after high school,’” Sidney Takara said.

Kilani Bakery is known for its irresistible brownies that often sell out.

“It’s a little chewy. We have nuts in it,” Dawn Takara explained about the brownies. “[Customers] call it crack brownies,” she said.

However, the pandemic has been a difficult time for many businesses.

Sales at the bakery are down, so Kilani Bakery has come up with new ways to get customers.

“We’re very old school. We don’t like social media, but we’ve turned to social media to put ourselves out there and to do some advertising,” Dawn Takara explained.

On top of COVID-19, it doesn’t help that there is construction daily along Kilani Avenue.

The Takara’s said the construction deters many customers from going to the bakery.

However, for those who do want to support the long-time local business, there is plenty of parking available.

Because of COVID-19, the Takara’s said it is no longer about making money. It is simply about surviving for their customers.

“They follow us to the end,” Dawn Takara said about their loyal customers. “They threaten us if we ever even think of shutting down,” she said.

Dawn Takara said they also hope to stay in business for years to come, so their kids can one day take over.

“I always tell my kids, you have to love what you do,” Dawn Takara stated.

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