Access to capital has been a long-standing roadblock for Black business owners, made more acute by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is in its second year.

In response, local chambers of commerce are launching initiatives matching investors with small-business owners who need funds.

The African American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ & DE on Wednesday said it has launched its first cohort pairing business owners with CEO mentors, part of its “BuildingBackBlack” initiative.

“Our members were unbanked during the PPP loan series,” AACC president Regina Hairston said during the conference, and lost out on those Small Business Administration loans and grants as a result.

To address that gap, business owners and coaches will help applicants prepare pitches to investors, banks, and other lenders. The AACC “Coaching to Capital” is a year-long program of one-on-one business consulting, classroom instruction, and mentor-coaches helping to apply for commercial financing.

More cohorts of the Coaching to Capital Program are expected. Applicants must have two years of business history and tax returns, generate at least $250,000 in gross annual revenue, and have a business office in the city of Philadelphia. For the inaugural Coaching to Capital program, participants Enspire Consulting Group, Kilgore Family Childcare, DASH Renovations, Indian Princess Hair and RM67 Fashion will work with mentors at WSFS Bank, for example.

For information, call the Chamber at (215) 751-9501 or email membership@aachamber.org.

The AACC also currently partners with the Community College of Philadelphia’s “Power Up Your Business,” in which entrepreneurs produce a business plan to identify ways to grow. Over a nine-month period, participants work with mentor-coaches to position business owners to raise money.

“Any neighborhood small business can enter into this CCP program for free, get mentorship, put together your books, navigate bureaucracy, [and] get the right licenses,” City Councilmember Cherelle Parker said. The Power Up program is also a feeder for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses accelerator program, she said.

The African American Chamber hosted its “BuildingBackBlack” panel and conference on Wednesday and highlighted what barriers and solutions exist for Black business owners.

“We want accountability for the $66 billion in commitments made last year” to the African American business community by nonprofits and Corporate America, said Ron Busby, CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers Inc. in Washington.

He estimates that the country lost 41% — or 450,000 — Black-owned businesses in 2020 between February and April. It’s unclear how many were in the Greater Philadelphia region.

Greater Phila Chamber CEOs

Separately, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia this summer launched the CEO Access Network, which matches corporate executives with small-business owners from underrepresented populations in business. The deadline to apply is Friday, Sept. 10.

The Chamber is now accepting applications from disability-, LGBTQ-, minority-, veteran-, and women-owned small businesses to participate in this year’s cohort. For more information, visit the Chamber’s website at https://chamberphl.com.