President of largest black-owned bank sheds light on race disparities in business

Reporter Lena Pringle and Teri Williams, President and COO of OneUnited Bank, join us to discuss the struggles that black owned businesses go through due to a number of issues. Williams says that her focuses for the bank include closing the racial wealth gap, being financially literate, being unapologetic-ally black, building and helping the community, and focus on supporting black businesses.

Historically Black business owners have faced various issues when trying to get businesses off the ground - from racism to redlining.

“Our focus is to close the racial wealth gap. We focus specifically on we are like unapologetic-ally black. Focusing on building, helping our community both build businesses, buy black, bank black, as well as you know focusing on financial literacy,” Teri Williams, OneUnited Bank president, COO and owner said.

This is the reality that some Black business owners face when trying to get their businesses off the ground.

"Not having enough support. A lot of times when you don't have the right resources from people in general, it tends to make it harder than what it should be," said Kris Sawyer, local business owner.

OneUnited says this is one of the many reasons it exists today.

Williams says there's a need to improve black business owner's access to capital and secure funding.

“Ownership is very very important. There are 4500 banks in the country and the majority of them all but 19 of them are not black-owned. In other words, there’s only 19 black-owned banks in the country and the reason that it makes a difference is that we’re more likely to lend to the black community, we’re more likely to be located in the black community, and we also serve as an important voice to the black community, said Williams. Even today, only 1 to 2% of the dollars of national banks go to the black community whereas if you look at Black banks 70 or 80% of dollars go to the black community,” Williams said.

Williams says 40% of black-owned businesses have closed since February due to the pandemic.

Though it’s challenging - now is a better time than ever to get one started.

"This is a great time to get a business off the ground. It may not feel like it. But anytime there's a tremendous change, there's a tremendous opportunity."

Williams says businesses should have these items in order when getting started:

  • Ensure your business has the right structure,
  • Pick an appropriate name - Williams suggests the name of your business should say what you do
  • Create a functioning website consistent with that name
  • And have all of your documentation in order.

In Teri Williams’ full interview, she discusses top mistakes black business owners make, ways to secure funding and capital using local resources, and how you can capitalize on these times to move your business forward.