Bridging the Gap for Black Entrepreneurs

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Dec 10, 2019 Common Future

Jessica Norwood knows firsthand that raising “friends and family” capital is a major barrier to black business creation. In fact, there is a $19,000 divide between the net worth of the average black household ($11,000) and the $30,000 you need to start a business from scratch. The Runway Project aims to bridge that gap.

Jessica launched The Runway Project with Self-Help Credit Union and enlisted leaders in the Common Future network to support.

As a result, the Runway Project has grown into a thriving project in Oakland, California. It demonstrated something Jessica has always known: that the underlying problem is not so much related to the entrepreneurs as it is to the infrastructure around them:

“It’s not a pilot problem, it’s a runway problem.”


The loans require no collateral. They are uniquely structured as personal loans for business purposes and backed by a collateral fund at RSF Social Finance. The Runway Project’s support doesn’t stop there. They provide support with business plans and pitches to help entrepreneurs raise additional funds.

Speaking to Impact Alpha, Jessica noted: “A lot of times, the entrepreneurs who are coming to us have been struggling to get the right kind of capitalization for a long time. They might qualify for the $20,000 loans, or up to $50,000, but may have needs that require different kinds of capital. They might need a lot more than that.”

While conversations about the racial wealth gap are a welcome start, Jessica reflects that there is more work to be done with fund managers and asset holders. Shifting capital to entrepreneurs who have historically been under-resourced will requires a greater mindset shift towards inclusivity and active, attentive dedication to equitable portfolios. 

Alongside Common Future and other network leaders encouraging these changes, The Runway Project is leading the charge.

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