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Kansas City, Missouri

Rebuild better, block by block

In conversation for the Social Innovation Summit, Minneapolis-based founder and CEO Tawanna Black and Kauffman’s Philip Gaskin discuss how to build a just economy where everyone is able to write their own story through entrepreneurship and business ownership to create a true American Dream.

When we try to run an entrepreneurial economy that puts a lid on black and brown entrepreneurs… that’s a sure performance for underperformance.

— Philip Gaskin
Vice President of Entrepreneurship

Tawanna Black, founder and CEO of the Center of Economic Inclusion in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says to create a just economy, we must recognize that America was founded on injustices. To create a true American Dream for everyone, individuals must be able to write their own story through entrepreneurship and business ownership.

She joined Kauffman’s Miles Sandler, director of engagement – education for Public Affairs, and Philip Gaskin, vice president of Entrepreneurship, in a conversation at the Social Innovation Summit held virtually this week.

“When we try to run an entrepreneurial economy that puts a lid on black and brown entrepreneurs, that misfires on half its cylinders concerning women, and hasn’t yet implemented a national solution for rural America, that’s a sure performance for underperformance,” Gaskin says.

Last year, Kauffman launched America’s New Business Plan to address barriers to new business creation – including inequity in our systems – at the federal, state, and local levels. It is paramount in this moment, as we face a novel coronavirus pandemic and continued racial injustice, that we Rebuild Better.

Those of us who are in the business of helping business owners have to be thinking in more complex ways than we ever have before. We’ve got a lot of hard work to do.

— Tawanna Black
Founder and CEO, Center of Economic Inclusion

“I think those of us who are in the business of helping business owners have to be thinking in more complex ways than we ever have before about how we help those businesses thrive. And not just in the next few weeks, but in the many months to come,” Black says. “We’ve got a lot of hard work to do.”

Gaskin says rebuilding better is done block by block. It starts by knowing and supporting black business owners. It can be achieved in our schools, by giving all students opportunity for Real World Learning with entrepreneurs and other professionals in their communities. It’s done by making sure local, state, and federal policymakers acknowledge systemic inequities and prioritize the needs of new and small businesses. And it continues as each of us, as individuals, understand and value our interdependence to each other.


Embracing Our Interdependence: In a country born out of the notion of individualism, our greatest strength can actually be our interdependence. We can remain strong individuals while also building stronger systems, and a stronger nation.

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