The Switzerland-based multinational financial institution Credit Suisse has launched a new initiative called the Entrepreneurs Circle to help African American entrepreneurs in the U.S. to accelerate long-term growth and to scale their businesses. The first of its kind initiative is the latest effort to reach out to the African-American business community. The program is part of Credit Suisse’s Private Banking and Wealth Management New Markets initiative, which seeks to advance financial opportunity among women, African-Americans and the LGBT community.
The bank selected 12 business owners to kick off its three-prong program providing capital, curriculum, and community. Circle members will have access to bank loans ranging from $1-$5 million; access to the bank’s global network of 45,000 investment bankers, wealth advisors and industry experts and learning opportunities in such areas as managing growth, marketing, sales, talent acquisition, and operations; and access to a group of like-minded peers and mentors.
“Credit Suisse aims to be an authentic and innovative accelerator of wealth creation in the African- American community and our other New Markets communities,” says Pamela Thomas-Graham, Credit Suisse’s Chief Marketing and Talent Officer and Head of Private Banking and Wealth Management New Markets. “Data clearly shows that African-American business owners are underrepresented among all business owners and are generally underserved by large, global financial institutions — our goal in launching the Entrepreneurs Circle is to begin to change that,” she adds. “We have an investment bank and a private bank; entrepreneurs tend to need both of those as they grow. They need advice about possible public offerings, acquisitions, or other monetization events. As they become more successful they need expertise on how to create more wealth and pass that on to generations.”
The program is not aimed at entrepreneurs who are just starting out of the gate or just have a business concept, but those who have an established product or service, actual sales, and revenues. “We also wanted entrepreneurs who would reinvest their success back into the communities,” says Thomas-Graham, an African American businesswoman, corporate leader and author.
Circle members include men and women in high-growth, global industries from around the country. “There are some interesting businesses being launched in African American communities and other high growth global industries, be it restaurants, the energy sector, tech, or consumer, media, there are a number of industries that wouldn’t traditionally be defined as tech but that are really high growth global businesses that have a lot of potential,” notes Thomas-Graham.
For lawyer, film producer and entrepreneur Tonya Lewis Lee, participating in the program is about taking her website Healthy You Now, dedicated to helping women of color navigate the vast (and often confusing) array of fitness and nutrition information, and turning it into an ecommerce business site. The revamped site will be an online store and subscription service whereby each month members will receive a box of tools to help them live a healthier lifestyle, from healthy snacks to digital applications to apparel coupons.