Alabama MBDA and Walker’s Legacy foster growth for Black and Brown entrepreneurs across the state

Every day, Karlisha Harris makes history.

Across the street from his office is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Block 16 is in the northm Street Baptist Church, a living landmark in the struggle for equality. And, from a direct standpoint, Kelly Ingram Park has monuments to those who fought the good fight.

“That’s my vote every day,” Harris said. “Looking at these idols, I realize that I have to pay for it.”

In the heart of the Birmingham Civil Rights District, the Alabama MBDA – Minority Business Development Agency – focuses on promoting the growth and competitiveness of black and minority US businesses. The Birmingham agency is operated by Walker’s Legacy, whose mission is to equip 10,000 businesses led by women of color by 2025.

“A lot of people have joined us in person or through webinars, not knowing what to do next to take their business to the next level,” said Harris, program coordinator for the Alabama MBDA. “We are increasingly trying to provide a personal touch and ensure that we hold the hand of budding entrepreneurs on their journey.”

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Bankers from three regions participated in two live and virtual financial wellness seminars aimed at giving aspiring entrepreneurs the skills they need to navigate their way through business building. (Radesh Bank)

To help with the journey, she has enlisted a trio of region bankers in Birmingham to help guide the route.

Tom Strode, Commercial Banking Solutions Relationship Manager; Reginald Smith, SBA Banker; and Trey Abston, Commercial Banking Solutions Leader, facilitated two live and virtual financial wellness seminars aimed at giving aspiring entrepreneurs the skills they need to navigate their way.

“I was an entrepreneur for years,” Strode said. “Being an entrepreneur is not a job; It’s not a career. It is a calling. But it is not for the faint of heart. “

That’s why, Strode warned, “You’ll always need three people in your life you can count on: your lawyer, your accountant, and your banker—because those three people won’t lie to you.”

In two one-hour, two-session sessions, the region’s bankers provided a step-by-step guide to creating, maintaining and building a small business, or micro-enterprise with fewer than five employees and less than $100,000 in annual revenue.

And part of that journey is learning how to get capital. While the Small Business Administration is there to help build at the local level, taking an idea and making it work on a large scale can be difficult.

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“The best tip I can give you is how to run your company with as little money as possible,” Smith said. “Often, we come up with a great idea but fail to see the big picture – because the key to success is organic growth, where you learn what works and what doesn’t as you go.”

Stroud warned entrepreneurs to stay away from friends, family and fools when it comes to raising capital.

“We often turn to this for investment, and it rarely works,” Stroud warned. “I’ve been at that end myself.”

Monuments at Kelly Ingram Park honor heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. (Radesh Bank)

Instead, there are ways to take a business idea to a neutral audience—local small-business pitch competitions modeled after “Shark Tank.” Within Alabama, for example, Auburn University, Samford University, and the University of Alabama have Launchpad programs to help turn ideas into viable ventures.

There are also equity financing options, but they come with costs.

“This is where you see the enterprise run into trouble,” Stroud said. “You might need an extra $50,000 or $60,000 to get over the hump, but to do that, you give away a piece of your business. Then, other people come in and take over your company, and eventually, you can be booted out. are you

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In just over an hour, Stroud and Smith provided an overview of turning entrepreneurial ideas into success stories, covering everything from budgeting to lines of credit and the need for viable business plans, before diving into virtual one-on-one sessions with entrepreneurs from across the country. . State

Harris took him in with a smile as he watched all this happen.

“Tom was recommended to us by a colleague, so we know what the regions have to offer in terms of expertise,” said Harris. “What I love is that Tom and Reginald are always clear, concise and personal, and they give advice at a level that our entrepreneurs can relate to.”

For more information about the Alabama MBDA, go to its website,

This story was originally published on Regions’ Doing More Today website.


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