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Equity 1821 plans to take aim at Black-owned business disparities

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An initiative is hoping to provide added support to Indy’s Black-owned businesses.

In 1821, David Mallory became the first Black person in Indianapolis to open up a business, which was a barbershop. That’s where you get the year in the name “Equity 1821.” Organizers have to finish up the process to become a community development financial institution and do a national search for an executive officer.

Even today, barriers exists when it comes to business ownership. Access to loans is a key problem area with Black business owners being denied twice as much.

Barbershops for many people serve more than one purpose. It’s a meeting place. At least that’s what Chop Chop barbershop manager Dumauriea “Thee Hair Raiser” Williams believes. “Barbershops are really the pillar of the community, or one of the pillars of the community,” he said.

Cutting hair is one of those jobs we’ll always need. He’s standing on the shoulders of Mallory and other men. Since Mallory’s days as a business operator, Black-owned businesses have gotten better but have a need for more room to grow.

“Within the past year, I’ve heard of more minority businesses opening up, but I think we still need more work,” Williams said.

Marshawn Wolley of Black Onyx Management, a consulting firm, said, “There isn’t a Black-led, culturally responsive entity that consistently lends money out in our community.”

The Equity 1821 plans to target disparities in Black-owned businesses, particularly when it comes to access to business loans. Statistics show, Wolley said, that Black-owned businesses are two times as likely to be denied loans. “In the city’s own disparity study, they noted that Black businesses in Indiana have a closure rate of about 40%.”

Wolley’s Black Onyx Management is behind the Equity 1821 plan, with help from Local Initiatives Support Corp. Indianapolis and $1 million from the city government.

“If small, Black businesses were being researched and financed at the same level as their white counterparts, the amount of additional economic activity in our communities and in our local and state economy would be vastly larger,” said Aaron Laramore, senior program officer at Local Initiatives Support Corp. Indianapolis.