Black Wall Street Kalamazoo proposes capital pipeline to bolster Black-owned businesses
“The purpose is injecting capital while giving education to those businesses to make sure that they can have the best chance at survival." -Nicole Triplett, Founder of Black Wall Street Kalamazoo
Black Wall Street Kalamazoo, founded by Nicole Triplett, is a non-profit that provides support and resources for Black entrepreneurs. Triplett says that the organization strives to answer the question, “how do we increase generational wealth?” To answer that question, Black Wall Street Kalamazoo is working to fund the creation of a capital pipeline that will provide substantial funds to Black businesses.
What is Generational Wealth?
Generational wealth is a term that you may have heard tossed around in discussion, but never heard defined clearly. Generational wealth is exactly what it sounds like; the wealth that a family builds and passes from generation to generation. Sounds simple enough, but generational wealth is actually an obvious example of the effects of systemic racism in the United States.
Black American’s efforts to build wealth have been disrupted for centuries; beginning with 246 years of slavery in the states, followed by Jim Crow Era laws, the New Deal’s Fair Labor Standards Act, and red lining. Countless policies have kept Black Americans from building generational wealth, therefore creating a chasm-like wealth divide in this country. The net worth of a typical white family in 2016 was $171,000, ten times more than the typical Black family at $17,150, according to the Brookings Institution.
The saying, “pulled myself up by my bootstraps,” means to accomplish something without any help from anybody. White Americans, however, were helped by a system that favored them, and put Black Americans at a disadvantage, said Triplett. This is why when the topic of reparations, to make amends, is brought up, Triplett says it is not like asking for a free handout.
"We have missed out all these decades on opportunities where people built wealth,” Triplett said, “Opportunities we never had in the first place.”
The Capital Pipeline
Black Wall Street Kalamazoo, in partnership with Sisters in Business and AMP Consulting, is creating a capital pipeline to provide funding without restrictions for Black businesses. The plan is to provide a substantial amount to each eligible business; around $15,000.
Generational wealth is a big reason why a capital pipeline, like the one Black Wall Street Kalamazoo is proposing, would be beneficial to Black entrepreneurs. Without access to restriction-free capital business owners have to rely on loans, which create more debt for business owners, and continue the cycle of blocking Black Americans from building wealth. The better way is through grants, Triplett said.
Along with substantial capital, the proposal offers counseling to businesses. Black Wall Street Kalamazoo wants to connect businesses with consultants, investors, and resources throughout their first year of receiving the grant.
“The purpose is injecting capital while giving education to those businesses to make sure that they can have the best chance at survival,” Triplett said.
In order for this proposal to work, Black Wall Street Kalamazoo and partnering organizations need to secure donations from large corporations that believe in their cause. Triplett, however, says that the dialogue with these organizations needs to change for the project to work.
“Everyone says that they are excited about the opportunity... however they are very hesitant to take a serious look at this proposal beyond saying that this is a great idea,” Triplett said. “No one seems to want to be on the front end of the initiative which everyone says we need to have.”
Though many were quick to praise Triplett’s proposal, few were willing to cut a check to the cause. Only the Stryker Johnston Foundation has agreed to donate to the pipeline so far, but Triplett is optimistic that their contribution may convince others to follow suit. Triplett says that anyone with connections to resources or foundations can advocate for this project by asking higher-ups why they are not funding it.
“I think when we all come together and we all use our resources from all walks of life to support this initiative maybe then there will be a push for importance and it will be pulled into the front,” Triplett said.
Black Wall Street Kalamazoo
There are many ways that Kalamazoo residents can help Black-owned businesses. A simple way is by shopping/using the services of Black businesses. Black Wall Street Kalamazoo’s Facebook page provides a reliable resource to do just that. People can post about the goods or services they require on the page, and people will respond with Black businesses that meet their needs.
Black Wall Street Kalamazoo also provides education to local businesses on a multitude of topics: building a sustainable business, budgeting, marketing, social media, business planning, business structure, networking, and more. Black Wall Street also hosts a Black Business Expo every year. Triplett says that for some people, this is the only time every year when they have the intent to support Black-owned businesses.
Black Wall Street Kalamazoo has become a major advocate for Black entrepreneurs in the community, however, Triplet said she had never intended for her voice to be the voice of change when she founded her organization.
“I had never intended to be so active in the political arena,” Triplett said. “However, if you are given this type of power or authority, or entrance into arenas where the majority of my population may never get to be heard, then I have a moral responsibility to be that voice so they can be heard, because they may never be heard.”
With her steadfast agenda of social change, Triplett says her organization helped draw awareness to something that many claimed did not exist: successful black businesses. Triplett has seen more awareness for Black entrepreneurs over the past few years, but that isn’t where the progress ends. More resources have become available for Black business owners in the community, and many Black entrepreneurs have realized their potential and found ways to bring their ideas to life.
Triplett is proud of the progress that has been made, but make no mistake, the job is not done. The time to step-up and level the playing field, says Triplett, is now.