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Pandemic economy brings new urgency to building equal access to entrepreneurship

[Highlights] Kauffman Conversations: Building Inclusive Ecosystems
Watch: "[Highlights] Kauffman Conversations: Building Inclusive Ecosystems" | 5:29

Experts Philip Gaskin, Tawanna Black, and Brad Feld discuss how to help more women, people of color and those in rural areas start and grow businesses to rebuild a vibrant economy.

In the midst of an ongoing pandemic that is crippling the nation’s economy, making it easier to start and grow businesses for those who face barriers due to their demographics is more essential than ever.

In addition to unequal access to entrepreneurship opportunities, underserved communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, both from an economic and health perspective. Without these entrepreneurs, economic recovery will be severely hampered.

We’re in a period of time that happens every 60 to 100 years, so addressing this in a cookie cutter fashion is not going to work.

Philip Gaskin
Vice President of Entrepreneurship, Kauffman Foundation

The nation can no longer afford the systemic inequities and structural barriers that are preventing women, people of color and those living in rural areas from starting and growing businesses. The waves of racial unrest and rioting add another dimension to these challenges, for communities and cities alike.

In this edition of Kauffman Conversations, three ecosystem experts take on this timely topic and offer practical solutions for overcoming these challenges. The panelists break down why building more inclusive entrepreneurship systems is key to revitalizing and strengthening communities and the economy as a whole. They also share innovative ways to open access to knowledgeable entrepreneurs, small business advisors, financial experts and capital.

Philip Gaskin, Vice President of Entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation said, “Look at what people are doing. How are people interacting? How are things changing in the moment? But don’t try to completely prescribe it and what it’ll be in five years.”

As founder and CEO of Minneapolis-St. Paul-based Center for Economic Inclusion, Tawanna Black brings her perspective from leading an organization dedicated to creating inclusive regional economies in a community that recently faced enormous racial strife. “We’re grateful that for once our communities are coming to reckon with the deep racism that takes place in not only our streets, but in boardrooms and policy rooms and employers in many places across our country,” Black said. “We are all having to reckon with that and say what it will take for us to create the policies, the practices, the justice that is really needed.”

Watch: “[Full Video] Kauffman Conversations: Building Inclusive Ecosystems | 51:37

Brad Feld, co-founder of venture capital firm the Foundry Group, brings a complex systems approach addressed in his newest book, The Startup Community Way: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. “Embrace the complexity,” said Feld. “Accept that you’re not going to be able to put together a five-year plan. [Progress] rapidly evolves based on what you do and what all the participants in the startup community do.”

Kim Wallace Carlson, director of engagement in Entrepreneurship for Kauffman, facilitates the conversation.