Business ownership: In an equitable region, race and gender would not be barriers to starting a successful business.

Insights & Analyses

  • Among firms with paid employees in the five-county Bay Area, the rate of business ownership is five times higher for white workers compared with Black workers and four times higher compared with Latinx workers.
  • The rate of business ownership in the five-county Bay Area is more than two times higher for male workers compared with female workers.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, among firms with paid employees in the five-county Bay Area, the rate of business ownership has increased for Black, Asian American, and white workers, and it declined slightly for Latinx workers.
  • The number of Black-owned firms with paid employees per 100 workers was the highest in Marin County and the lowest in Solano County.

Drivers of Inequity

Entrepreneurs of color are less likely than white entrepreneurs to have access to capital and contracts to start and grow a business, due in part to historical policies such as redlining that denied home loans and wealth-building opportunities to people of color. Today, Black- and Latinx-owned firms are less than half as likely as white-owned firms to be fully approved for non-emergency financing. Business owners of color also pay higher interest rates and receive lower loan and equity investments. Although creditworthiness is a factor in loan denials, this metric does not reflect how reliably individuals pay their rent. Underrepresented groups also often face barriers accessing important networks and training programs.


Strengthen places: Policies to expand and sustain business ownership for all residents

Strategy in Action

Bay Area entrepreneurship supports are designed for underserved business owners and to curb persistent unemployment. ICA Fund Good Jobs provides high-quality business consulting services to support the growth of small- and mid-sized companies located in high-unemployment areas of the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2022 alone, ICA invested $3.9 million in small businesses that employ 803 workers. ICA invested 85 centers of every dollar in a woman founder or founder of color and 96 percent of companies served are owned by women or people of color. Learn more


Photo: ICA Fund Good Jobs

In Their Own Words...

“ Nirvana Soul is for everyone. We pride ourselves in being accessible and expanding the pie, not just having a piece of the pie.”

— Be’Anka Ashaolu, SoFA District, San José

Be’Anka Ashaolu and her sister, Jeronica, have a deep-rooted connection with coffee that began in their childhoods, sharing sips of their grandmother’s coffee dregs. In 2018, they turned this lifelong interest into a business venture, embarking on the journey to open their first Nirvana Soul café. They faced a challenging journey to business ownership, navigating through fundraising hurdles and securing a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. With support from friends, family, and a local café owner who wanted to pass on his location, they successfully opened Nirvana Soul in San José’s SoFA District in the fall of 2020. The sisters are committed to creating an inclusive and vibrant atmosphere for their customers. They also prioritize hiring Black and Brown female baristas and coffee roasters, which Be’Anka views as a strategic investment in the future of specialty coffee. Learn more.


Photo: Felix Uribe

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