Evaluating the Impact of Programs for Marginalized Entrepreneurs
Written by Kim Zeuli, EEP
The unprecedented call to action to support marginalized entrepreneurs—entrepreneurs of color, women and military veterans—that started with the pandemic has led to unprecedented support for these entrepreneurs. But has it changed anything for the entrepreneurs?
During the past eight years (2015-2022), JPMorgan Chase has invested in a comprehensive and independent evaluation to help answer this question annually. Their small business-focused philanthropic initiatives have directed critical resources to entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs) dedicated to providing marginalized entrepreneurs with access to capital, technical support and guidance. Each year, their annual evaluation measures the impact of a group of these ESOs on the entrepreneurs they serve. To date, 22 of their ESO partners in the U.S. have been evaluated.
In 2022, the annual evaluation captured the impact of six ESOs increasing opportunity for marginalized entrepreneurs:
- Bunker Labs provides community, programs, and courses to help military veterans and military spouses start and grow successful businesses and startups through chapters in 37 cities.
- Camelback Ventures, based in New Orleans but serving entrepreneurs nationally, invests in the ventures and leadership of entrepreneurs of color and women and advocates for fairness in funding.
- Eastern Market Partnership in Detroit provides food entrepreneurs, most of whom are marginalized, with cooking space, market support and other resources to scale their food businesses.
- Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) is creating an inclusive green economy in L.A. by working with diverse startups to accelerate the commercialization of clean technologies.
- MORTAR, based in Cincinnati but serving entrepreneurs in six other cities, helps historically marginalized entrepreneurs access the resources they need to run successful businesses.
- TechTown is Detroit’s entrepreneurship hub that provides programs, education and resources for diverse early- to growth-stage small businesses and tech entrepreneurs.
Measuring Impact Over Time
Over the eight years of evaluation, the cumulative impact of the 22 ESOs has been remarkable: they have provided 14,061 entrepreneurs with critical business education, connections to capital and access to markets to grow their businesses and create more jobs. Their businesses collectively raised $2.3 billion in capital, generated $1.8 billion in revenue, created 34,925 jobs and paid $1.3 billion in wages. The true impact is greater since this data reflects information collected through our survey and we do not achieve 100 percent response rates.
In 2022, the six ESOs that were evaluated provided programming and resources to 1,329 businesses. For the 470 businesses that responded to the survey, they raised $64 million in capital (debt, equity and grants), generated $358 million in revenue, created 4,759 jobs (filling 45 percent with local hires), and paid $240 million in wages.
The Entrepreneur Perspective
Too often, the bottom-line business metrics are the only testament given on the impact of ESOs. In the JPMorgan Chase evaluation, we also capture the entrepreneur’s perspective. We don’t assume the support they received led to their positive business outcomes. All of the entrepreneurs of color and women we surveyed felt that overall their ESO’s support helped them achieve their business goals.
We also asked the entrepreneurs to rate the impact of the overall support from the ESOs on a few broad measures. The top impact chosen was “giving them hope as an entrepreneur,” which was ranked higher than “keeping my business open,” followed by “improving their emotional wellbeing.” These findings resonate in a year that elevated the importance of the mental health of entrepreneurs and point to an often overlooked facet of ESOs—they provide an important sense of community and combat entrepreneurship isolation, which is even greater for marginalized entrepreneurs that typically lack such support systems.
Steadfast Partnerships for Systemic Change
The spike in support for marginalized entrepreneurs since 2020 has created competition for the established ESOs in most cities. Most of the entrepreneurs in our survey had accessed resources elsewhere. The proliferation of organizations and programs means that it is more important than ever to measure the quality of services and resources being offered. Almost all of the entrepreneurs we surveyed (91 percent) said they would recommend their ESO to other entrepreneurs and 80 percent believed the overall support they received was of higher quality than other sources of support in their city.
JPMorgan Chase remains committed to connecting marginalized entrepreneurs to small business ecosystems to help build resilient, competitive companies. This involves steadfast partnerships with inclusive ESO partners and robust, independent evaluation that captures both impact and insights to ensure marginalized entrepreneurs receive the critical support they need.