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MINORITIES IN BUSINESS

Boosting Business in Recession-Ravaged Communities

While other entrepreneurs overlook struggling communities, The Legacy Movement is fostering entrepreneurship in them--and can help you uncover hidden business opportunities.
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It is always a pleasure to come across entrepreneurs who are willing to swing for home runs and develop game-changing models. Often, that entails making big bets and pursuing huge opportunities with a chance of failure.

I recently stumbled upon a company called The Legacy Movement, founded by Aaron Gray.  Its goal: To create generational wealth through entrepreneurship in underserved communities.

The Legacy Movement provides entrepreneurs in underserved communities access to an ecosystem of individuals and organizations who have similar goals via an innovative technology platform. Imagine, for instance, a LinkedIn for entrepreneurs and small businesses in underserved communities. The platform facilitates and enables networking, information sharing, and education for entrepreneurs starting businesses in these communities.

Why not just use LinkedIn? Well, the beauty of The Legacy Movement is that it serves niches that many other professional networking services miss--and they're ones that often most need such support: veterans, women, and communities of color. It also has something for everyone: would-be entrepreneurs ready to start a non-profit or for-profit social venture, experienced professionals looking to acquire businesses, small business owners seeking capital, or investors seeking to diversify their portfolios with high-quality women, military-led, and minority-owned businesses.

Why is this good for entrepreneurs? I know firsthand. When starting Heritage Link Brands, Selena and I had passion and a vision for what we wanted to accomplish--but we also had few resources.  Our saving grace was the fact that we had an extensive network of successful business people and entrepreneurs to tap into for advice. Without it, I believe we would have been one of the many promising small businesses that fail early on.

In many communities, individuals are starting companies daily with no network to rely on for support. The Legacy Movement is attempting to offer high-quality education and a phenomenal network of people that will aid in the transfer of knowledge to these budding entrepreneurs in underserved communities.  In addition, being part of an ecosystem of like-minded peers, including those who have experienced success and failure in their recession-ravaged community (and so understand its unique needs and often untapped promise), offers entrepreneurs extreme value.

A while back I encouraged you to look into hiring workers with disabilities, a huge (and largely overlooked) pool of talented workers out there just waiting to be hired. Yes, because it is simply right not to shut out a group of people from your business operations for no reason. But also, because there is a strong business case that proves that hiring workers with disabilities is good for the bottom line. Similarly, I encourage you to check out The Legacy Movement and keep an open mind to its focus on underserved communities.

Whether we care to admit it or not, too often many people still think that organizations that focus on women, veterans, and communities of color are subpar or can't be profitable. As an importer of black-produced wine from Africa, I've experienced this firsthand--I've got stories for days about the amazing misconceptions people have about African wine regions, black winemakers, and what defines old world vs. new world wine. Suffice it to say, too often these misconceptions are predicated on the notion that if it's produced on the African continent or by black people, it will not measure up to accepted standards. 

This type of thinking is by no means limited to the wine industry or Africa, which is why I think any entrepreneur can benefit immensely by staying open to opportunities to serve and invest in underserved communities. Again, not only is it the right thing to do, but if approached strategically--which is exactly what resources like The Legacy Movement help entrepreneurs to do--it can be enlightening and highly profitable.

Last updated: Oct 23, 2012

KHARY CUFFE | Columnist | Co-Founder, Heritage Link Brands

Khary Cuffe is co-founder and CFO of Heritage Link Brands. In addition, he has served as a marketer for the Procter & Gamble Company where he was responsible for a global multi-functional team.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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