May 20, 2022

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The Car & Automotive Devotees

Beacon Council accelerator targets 100 minority companies

4 min read
Written by Monica Correa on December 28, 2021


The Miami-Dade Beacon Council is in the process of helping to grow about 100 small businesses by providing them with robust services and partnering opportunities with more than 20 organizations under the council’s small business accelerator program.

The peak of the Covid-19 pandemic revealed that many small businesses in Miami-Dade County did not have access to some of the technical resources they needed, said Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of the Beacon Council, which started a program to support and track the success of small companies in the county by partnering them with local organizations for access to capital and other technical assistance.

“Many couldn’t get loans from banks when the paycheck protection program (PPP) was underway because they didn’t have a business banking relationship,” said Mr. Finney. “Many of them lost touch with their customers because they really didn’t have a digital footprint – in other words, their websites weren’t sufficient. Of course, [some] didn’t have the capital needed to survive, and the access to capital. They needed marketing partners. They needed assistance finding and identify new customers. And the list went on and on.”

The Beacon Council identified 15 characteristics or needs that these existing small businesses in the county could be helped with for them to have a higher probability of success. The small business accelerator program was born out of months of brainstorming ideas with about 500 small businesses, said Mr. Finney, with secured funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and Bank of America. The Beacon Council has selected its first 42 small businesses and plans to select the other 58 during the first half of next year, he said. “Our target is to really work with about a hundred companies.”

Mr. Finney said that the program would eventually be available to any small business in the county with less than half a million dollars of revenue and fewer than 10 employees. According to data from the Beacon Council research, 90.92% of businesses in Miami-Dade have nine employees or fewer.

“The lessons that we are learning in terms of how to support these businesses will apply to all small businesses,” he said.

The program, he added, has been focusing on minority-owned small businesses: “we’re focused on women-owned businesses, on Black businesses and Latino or Hispanic businesses because those are the ones that seem to have the greatest vulnerability.”

The Beacon Council has partnered with more than 20 organizations to support and find resources for small businesses in the county. These organizations include Prospera (Advance Hispanic Business); NANA (Neighbors and Neighbors Association); Ascendus; MDEAT, (the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust); the Miami-Dade Federal Credit Union; Catalyst Miami; Action Coach; SCORE (the Service Corps of Retired Executives); the Florida Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC Florida); FIU, and the Miami Bayside Foundation.

“And the idea is that we will be providing very robust services to small businesses across a lot of different industries,” said Mr. Finney. “We have a variety of different types of companies that we’re looking to support, industries such as hospitality and tourism, technology and healthcare, and sports and entertainment.”

Some of the criteria for small businesses to be selected by the Beacon Council to be part of this program measure their probability of success and their ability to grow, said Mr. Finney.

“Each candidate company that gets referred to us through one of our partners, or that finds us online, go through a comprehensive intake process where they fill out an application,” he said. The Beacon Council conducts formal interviews with them to understand their business model and what they perceive their needs to be.

Then, the council assigns one of its advocates to them – volunteers who are serving as advocates for each small company. Those volunteers will further assess what would be most effective to help the company, Mr. Finney said. The Beacon Council then helps to make a match with one of its technical assistance partners to provide the services the specific small business needs.

“Small business [assistance] was not a core part of our work before the pandemic,” said Mr. Finney. “We would help from time to time; we routinely would just refer companies off to [partnering organizations], and we really didn’t have a comprehensive way of following up or participating in whatever support services were provided.”

“Now, we’re directly involved in the process,” he said, “with business-to-business (B2B) referrals or help with their marketing or social media.”
The pandemic showed that many of these small companies were struggling to get access to their PPP loans.

“We were able to quickly identify more than 40 banks that would take the small businesses as their clients,” he said. “And once we did that, the requests continued to come in for other help. Once we had done a little pilot – in helping the first businesses – we pitched it to the Rockefeller Foundation and they agreed to provide us with funding, and then Bank of America joined them with some funding that specifically focused on women entrepreneurs.”

Mr. Finney said the Beacon Council works directly with businesses owners in Miami-Dade, who contact the council through referrals from outside sources or find the resources online.

“The small business accelerator really is a very comprehensive tool that pretty much offers support for all the major aspects of a successful business,” Mr. Finney said: “access to capital, accounting and back-office recording through B2B referrals, strategies around how to pivot and adjust business models, and just regular coaching, cash flow management, marketing, and of course, I can go on…”