Chamberlain S. Peterside, Ph.DMonday, September 13, 2004
[email protected]
New York, NY, USA



luggish economic conditions in the US over the last 4 years have lead to widespread downsizing, outsourcing and continuous restructuring in the workplace. Over 1.0 million positions have since disappeared in recent years. Statistics released by the national Urban League show that unemployment amongst blacks is twice higher than the national average at 10.2 percent compared to 5.4 percent nationwide. The quantity and caliber of new job openings is hardly commensurate with the losses already suffered.

In the face of such dramatic paradigm shift, the key question facing the Black community, including African immigrants in America is; what should displaced workers do to adapt to the changing conditions or to withstand the harsh realities in the long haul? Some key choices may be to:

  1. Survive on unemployment benefit until it terminates, get on welfare and/or continue to seek low paying/traditional employment opportunities.

  2. Get retrained, attain higher educational qualification and transfer to a new industry sector.

  3. Start a home-based, Internet related or small business enterprise.

    Look well and you will discover that the current changes portend great opportunities for the future. Individual approach may differ, the obstacles are no less daunting, but the long-term repercussion of inaction could even be worse. Evidence suggests that in times like this, the number of new small and micro businesses is usually high. The African American and immigrant communities in America have been responding very positively to the changing trend. The number of minority or immigrant owned businesses have been growing at more than 20 percent a year since the late 1990s.

    A small business doesn't necessarily have to reinvent the wheel, it could be an enhancement of existing idea or simply an enterprise built on delivering value differently, conveniently, faster, easier or cheaper. The road to financial success is not paved with gold; be that as it may, your bold steps could result to long-term wealth and financial independence.

    Funding any entrepreneurial endeavor especially in these times is no mean feat. Your first port of call should of course be friends and family. Several outside sources of financing have been drying up lately. Small business owners complain that the funding capacity of the Small Business Administration (SBA) has noticeably waned in recent years. Traditional lenders like the banks often relied on SBA guarantee and your good credit rating to provide financing. Banks have never felt comfortable financing startups, or did so under very strict underwriting guidelines.

    But before you give up, you must realize that city and state-sponsored economic development corporations and nonprofit micro-finance organizations have been stepping up to the plate lately, to support micro and small businesses that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day. Qualified individuals could obtain loans of between $5,000-$50,000 or more at favorable terms with less stringent conditions. My advice is; do your homework utilizing every available tool at your disposal; including word of mouth, the library, Internet search engines, local chamber of commerce and small business development centers (SBDC). Remain focused and with time the result shows, opportunities are boundless.

    Chamberlain is the Founder & President of New Era Capital Corp. and MyCompleteFinance.com, a New York based financial services group. He was previously a Financial Advisor in the Global Private Client Group, of Merrill Lynch.