When Malla Haridat heard New York City was launching programs to mentor minority business owners, she almost fell out of her chair. "So often we hear promises," she says. "But don't hear results."

Haridat, a business coach, was on a panel of business owners discussing opportunities for Black business owners. She and her fellow panelists described a range of resources available for Black and minority business owners. 

The increased focus on the Black business owners and resources devoted to them has created a "golden age" for entrepreneurs of color, says Kathey Porter, principal and CEO of Porter Brown Associates, a professional training and consulting firm in Alachua, Florida. It began even before the Black Lives Matter movement and protests of 2020, she says.

"If you were thinking about setting out and doing something," she says, "this is the moment." 

The conversation occurred in an Inc. National Small Business Town Hall stream event Thursday, moderated by Teneshia Carr, Inc. contributing editor and founder of Blanc Media. Here are a few highlights of the resources the group talked about. 

Networking 

Business owners are making new connections in virtual chats--Zoom coffees, Clubhouse rooms, and other remote events, says Haridat, founder of the New Designs for Life Training Company based in Yonkers, New York. Her pro tip: Bring your intro script ready to drop into the virtual event text space. Then, make a point to book time with people you "meet" at the virtual events. 

"That's where I've heard people building relationships they wouldn't have otherwise," she says. Check out LinkedIn virtual events and any networks outside of your "comfort zone," says Porter.

It doesn't have to stop at your laptop. When bills come up at the Florida statehouse related to minority and women-owned businesses, Haridat says she plans to be there every year to advocate for them. 

"We have to use what they're giving us," she says, referring to legislation and programs to support Black entrepreneurs. Engage with allies to hold people accountable to being inclusive about opportunities, she adds.

What's more, consider partnering up. After the widespread protests over police brutality and systemic racism last summer, Black entrepreneurs are more open than ever to working with others, according to Porter.

Paycheck Protection Program

The frequent changes to the PPP program and new legislation still in the works are a lot to keep up with, says Porter. Her top advice for applicants: File your quarterly taxes, and pay yourself. When you do take a paycheck, make a record of it, so when you apply as a sole proprietor or make payroll, your salary is taken into account.

Don't forget to plan for your post-pandemic life, says Damon Henry, founder and managing partner of Kortx, a marketing software company based in Berkley, Michigan. When at all possible, he says, develop cash reserves and a disaster strategy that can protect you from future recessions or other calamities. 

Other resources the panel pointed to include Ureeka, a San Francisco-based educational and community-building platform for underserved entrepreneurs, and the U.S. Black Chambers, a leadership and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.