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Finding capital to launch your business might be the hardest part of entrepreneurship. An examination of census data shows that black-owned businesses have very low levels of startup capital relative to white-owned businesses and these differences persist across all major industries.
But don’t let that dissuade you. There are a plethora of organizations, universities, and companies that provide pro bono or professional services at a reduced fee, ranging from accounting to information technology and from human resource management to marketing. When such services are free, this practice is often referred to as skills-based volunteering.
“When you are capacity constrained thinking outside of the box in terms of pro bono services and volunteer support is a really smart and effective way to add capacity to your organization without adding to your expense line,” says Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, a New York-based social venture fund that provides capital to support social entrepreneurs.
When Felix Lloyd was looking for backing for his startup, he turned to Echoing Green, which had provided financial support for a former employer. Lloyd, a former educator, needed funding for an online game that would help high school students develop financial literacy and math skills. As an Echoing Green fellow he received consulting services and startup capital to help launch Skill-Life Inc.
Echoing Green also reimbursed Lloyd for healthcare expenses, paid him $60,000 over a two year period, and matched him up with free and reduced cost legal services.
“Echoing Green provided my company with critical legal support, branding expertise, and an extensive professional network while challenging me to think and act strategically in building my business,”Â Lloyd says.