A new partnership in Covington will help foster the creation and growth of Black-owned businesses by providing free meeting space, consulting services and other resources needed by entrepreneurs.
Partners include the City of Covington, the African American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky (AACC), and the University of Northern Kentucky Collaborative for Economic Engagement, which operates out of 112 Pike St. in Covington’s “Innovation Alley”.
“This is another win for our city – a chance for people to understand what it takes to open a business,” said Pro Tem Mayor/City Commissioner Ron Washington. “One of the benefits of being an entrepreneur is being able to control your destiny.”
The city does not currently track the exact number of minority-owned businesses in Covington, but wants to encourage more.
One concrete way to do this is to award “bonus points” to minorities, women and veterans who apply for grants or loans through the city’s small business program, which helps pay rent. in the critical first year of a business or making exterior improvements to a building. . This new partnership – the result of discussions initiated by the City – will bring even more help, officials say.
“Covington is a diverse place, and we want to make sure that diversity extends to our business community, with opportunities and support for everyone,” said Susan Smith, the town’s business attraction manager. “This partnership is new, but you can already feel the energy and excitement surrounding it. The African American Chamber is already doing a lot of work in and around Cincinnati, and we think Covington and its Innovation Center is the perfect place to expand that work into Northern Kentucky.
Resources at your fingertips
AACC will use the Collaborative for Economic Engagement space in Covington to meet with potential entrepreneurs and existing business owners. For the AACC, the physical space establishes a visible presence to implement the resources it will bring to Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses in the region.
“I’m really excited about this partnership because it involves a lot of different people with a lot of different perspectives,” said Eric Kearney, President and CEO of AACC. “My experience has been (that) when you have people with different ideas and different perspectives, it creates synergy and stronger ideas and better ideas. I think it’s going to be explosive for northern Kentucky.
Among the range of resources AACC will provide is Pivot, a program created during the pandemic to help businesses recover. The program continues to provide assistance and tools to established businesses as well as entrepreneurs.
“Not everyone can fill out an application or is not tech-savvy, and we can offer our help, whether it’s helping develop business stories, browsing Zoom or offering our copier,” said Jill McCauley, business advisor for the Pivot team. “We are delighted to bring our resources here. The impetus for coming here is to learn what is happening in northern Kentucky and what resources we can connect people to.
An “entrepreneurial ecosystem”
The collaborative (originally announced HEREas NKY-HUB) works on a shared services model that allows companies and entrepreneurs to benefit from the expertise of a variety of agencies as well as NKU’s specialized programs, co-located in a central hub .
“These partnerships help stabilize the resilience of existing businesses and enable the resources, education and mentorship to launch new ones,” said Meg Stephenson, director of the collaboration’s innovation office.
By facilitating connections, Stephenson said, the collaboration is helping to increase entrepreneurship and innovation in the region, including among minorities and other underserved entrepreneurs and investors, with the aim of spurring job creation. .
Eric Kearney said he thinks entrepreneurship is at an all-time high, both because of COVID-19 and because he thinks young people are ready to take risks now. He is excited to build new relationships with entrepreneurs south of the Ohio River.
“This will be our first physical presence in Northern Kentucky,” Kearney said. “We’ve done events here, but nothing where we’ve rooted, so to speak. I am delighted with this, it is an expansion of our presence here and we want to continue to develop this relationship.
Covington Director of Economic Development Tom West said the partnership will complement the character of The Cov’s economy, given the focus on unique startups, local businesses and personal attention here.
“The City believes our local businesses are more sustainable in the long run than chains or satellites,” West said. “We provide financial support to groups like the NKU collaboration, Aviatra and others because we know that businesses that start and grow here are more likely to stay here, reinvest their profits in the community and hire residents.”
The AACC strives to increase business opportunities, assist in professional development, and help develop partnerships and strategic alliances with the goal of strengthening and growing the African American business community in the region. Its website, seen HERE, advertises the organization as the #1 chamber in the United States advocating for African-American businesses in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area.