The annual entrepreneurs pitch event PitchBlack takes place Wednesday August 30 at 6pm, and Business For a Better Portland is trying to increase the pot.
The progressive business group, formerly known as PICOC, aims to rustle up $10,000 online from its followers. That sum will be added to ticket and merchandise sales.
B4BP is known for its monthly actions where business people donate cash and awareness for worthy causes, and integrate with the wider community.
"Access to capital is critical, and the business community has to lead that effort," B4BP and Switchboard co-founder Mara Zepeda told the Business Tribune. "We have to step up if we're to have a more diverse economy."
Last year at Pitch Black three winners split the pot of $12,000 equally. It included a $7,000 donation from PICOC.
Pitch Black founder, Stephen Green, 39, a second-generation entrepreneur, economist and banker, MC'd the evening at trendy digital ad agency Instrument. (2015 was the first year of the competition and the prize money then was just $1,500.)
"We're doing events in Seattle, Austin and Oakland as well though this fall," Green told the Business Tribune.
We've reached out to 30 cities, and I was surprised, they don't have anything similar in cities considered more diverse than Portland."
Green said one thing he loves about the event is that for many people in the audience, whether from the black community or the mainstream of entrepreneurs, it's the first time they have been in the same room together. "I've talked to a number of people who said they had no idea we were in the same industry."
Green said he had noticed that Prosper Portland was making an effort to be "inclusionary," such as at the new Legacy block on North Williams. But he added, "That's less of my world. We all play a role, and I'm not going to sit around for Portland, the county or some foundation to do a perfect project."
He cited Black Restaurant Week in Portland as a good example of businesses helping themselves and the community coming together.
"I've had conversations with leadership, and they're authentic. That being said, I've got my own work to do and I shouldn't be waiting around and complaining."
A founder member of Business for a Better Portland, he likes the group because it's focused on action.
"They ask members to do something, it's a call to action to show up and support someone, not just placate and talk. I call that Facebook courage."
Zepeda said a study by the Kauffman Foundation found that 50 percent of community banks have closed down since the Great Recession, a traditional source of funding for entrepreneurs of color. Zepeda said they have way less chance of getting loans from venture capitalists or friends and family. "And loans to black-owned businesses are down 91 percent. African Americans have one fourteenth of the inherited wealth of white people. And according to the Diana Report, only 11 women of color have received over $1 million in funding. That's financial apartheid."
Zepeda said, "If you want to be an ally and an advocate, this is a direct and critical way of doing it. If you're outraged by the toxic racism, financial empowerment is the best act we can do. Being an ally means acting. Outrage on Facebook and Twitter has its place but it's not action."
The 3rd Annual PitchBlack
5:30–8:30 p.m., Wednesday, August 30,
3529 North Williams Avenue.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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