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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Getting a business off the ground can be hard. Growing it can be a long and difficult struggle, especially when you’re a first-generation business owner.

The Greensboro Chamber of Commerce is focused on making the road a little smoother for everyone, especially minority business owners.

Larry Fairley started his advertising agency, Marketing Resource Solutions, after he was passed over for a big promotion at a Fortune 500 company. His company is based in Jamestown.

“If you’re in New York, you’ve got a lot of major brands, Fortune 500s to pursue, and other major markets as well,” he said. “We don’t have quite as many here in North Carolina, particularly the Triad.”

History is not on his side.

“This industry hasn’t been overly welcoming to minority-owned agencies, particularly Black-owned agencies.”

Fairley is one of 15 minority business owners who completed a new program through the Chamber of Commerce called Scale to Excel.

“As a business owner, you work in your business all the time. Seldom do you take time to work on your business and to do the kind of planning and through the resources the program has, it really takes you through a rigorous process.”

Seven months of regular lessons in executive education and management know-how. Chamber Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Niketa Greene says it puts them in front of larger businesses to help them grow.

“Definitely this is the type of program that is helpful in creating that network, creating some education that increases their awareness of financial resources as well as creating an opportunity for them to collaborate,” she said.

UNC Greensboro professor Dr. Channelle James is the instructor.

“I got so much out of it myself in terms of working with these fabulous entrepreneurs, the quality of entrepreneurs speaks to the quality of entrepreneurs in Greensboro. So I’m excited,” she said.

The chamber acknowledges every business has struggles and challenges, regardless of the owner’s background. But they also understand some businesses have challenges that others do not and their goal is to help those businesses navigate that.

“Many of them are first-generation businesses,” James said. “So they haven’t come from a long line of entrepreneurs behind them. Which means they start out with not the same amount of capital investment that other businesses have.”

“There are a number of systemic reasons why that might be,” Greene said. “But that typically means they don’t have access to the same friends and family network because there isn’t that same access to generational wealth.”

James says one factor is that minority-owned businesses generally don’t have access to the same contracts other businesses get access to.

“And then customers. Sometimes customers will know a business is a minority-owned business and they have these preconceived notions before they get to the business around what’s the level of service they’re going to get.”

As efforts increase to make the Triad’s economy more inclusive, Greene wants conversations to keep increasing too.

“I think we’re having more conversation about the disparities that exist within our community, and particularly with our businesses,” she said. “You certainly have to start there. And not just talking but also listening. I think people have to be receptive, and I think that’s what we’re starting to see.”

The chamber plans to start recruiting for the next Scale to Excel cohort later this month. They’re looking for minority-owned businesses with at least one employee other than the CEO, companies in business for at least three years, and have at least $175,000 in annual revenue. You can check out the chamber’s website for additional information.