How Black Businesses Can Survive Covid-19

“Black brilliance” is one of the phrases that retired Professor Steven Rogers (MBA 1985) liked to use when teaching the class that he created at HBS, “Black Business Leaders and Entrepreneurship.”
Black brilliance came to life on Wednesday evening, April 29th, when Professor Rogers launched the new HBSAAA webinar series, designed to help our community as we cope with the economic and health impacts of Covid-19.
In conversation with his daughter, entrepreneur and hotel executive Akilah Rogers (MBA 2009), Professor Rogers offered his exuberance, research and resources as well as a call to action for HBSAAA members to help Black businesses survive the pandemic. His primary reason for the emergency appeal is because Black businesses employ some 3 million Americans.  Thus, Black entrepreneurs are the number one private employers of Black people in the country.  Rogers proclaimed, “If these business owners do not survive, it will leave the Black community as a private enterprise desert, with devastating consequences.” 
Congress has approved some $670 billion in low interest loans under the new Payroll Protection Program (PPP).  Rogers calculated that Black-owned businesses should receive as little as $33 billion, based on the fact that five percent of Small Business Administration capital goes to minority-owned businesses.

However, he said: “My concern is that we are not applying out of fear, myths, intimidation or misinformation.  We need that money!” Rogers laid out in specific detail what he called the “easy peazy” steps for calculating what each business might be eligible to receive. He then walked participants through the two-page lender application form. 
Apply for Payroll Protection Program
Rogers said: “Over 90 percent of Black businesses are sole proprietors and they should get their share of that money. Anyone with an Employer Identification Number (EIN) is eligible.  Make sure that your barber and hairdresser, your accountant and lawyer – any Black business owner whom you know – applies.  And know that he or she can submit applications to multiple lenders.”
Rogers gave listeners a list of banks, other financial institutions and even some private enterprises that are offering the loans, which can become grants if 75 percent of the money is used for salaries over two months.  He also shared insights that he had received earlier on Wednesday from the CEO of Seaway National Bank in Chicago, a 52-year old Black bank.  Of the 1114 applications the bank had received since Monday, 975 had been approved for a total distribution of $140 million.  The other 139 applications were still being reviewed.
Rogers also offered three specific tips to help businesses survive the pandemic: 
  • Focus on generating new revenue; pivot to new products or services that consumers need. 
  • Get your expenses under control.  That could mean delaying your rent or mortgage payments. And,
  • Load your balance sheet with cash so that you can withstand what is shaping up to be a long period of economic retrenchment.
Immediately after the hour-long presentation, several HBSAAA members reported that they shared the information with Black business owners, extending the reach of the program, as intended.
HBSAAA members can request Professor Rogers’ slides by contacting our administrator: Mary Harmon.
Co-Presidents Beverly Anderson and Sara C. Clarke have observed and even participated in a number of other Covid-19 related webinars but felt there was a unmet need for programs specifically addressing African-American concerns.  In the coming weeks, they and an energetic group of HBSAAA volunteers are planning programs which will focus on emotional coping, the food supply and a look at a Black-owned business that was well prepared for the downturn, Brown Estate Vineyards.  They’re also hoping to lift our spirits with a program about Gospel music.  
In collaboration with the HBS Club of NY, HBSAAA co-sponsored a webinar with former Obama White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett on Monday, April 27th. And on May 14th, former CBS News White House Correspondent Jacqueline Adams (MBA 1978) will be in conversation with current ABC News White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl about his new book, “Front Row at the Trump Show.” Visit the Harvard Business School Club of New York website for more information and to register.
Stay tuned. 

About the Speakers

Steve Rogers, MBA 1985
Steven Rogers retired from Harvard Business School in 2019 where he was the “MBA Class of 1957 Senior Lecturer” in General Management. He taught Entrepreneurial Finance and a new course that he created, titled “Black Business Leaders and Entrepreneurship”.  

A 1985 graduate of the school, Professor Rogers holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Williams College. Prior to HBS, Professor Rogers taught in the MBA and PhD programs at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. He received the Outstanding Professor Award for the Executive MBA Program 26 times and daytime program twice. Both are records.

In 2020, he joined the University of Miami Business School as an Executive-in-Residence, where he teaches Entrepreneurial Finance in the Masters of Science Finance Program.

In 2019, he toured 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) where he taught a workshop in Entrepreneurial Finance. Poets & Quants magazine selected him as one of “Our Favorite MBA Professors of 2017.”

In 2016, he was a volunteer professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point Army, where he received the West Point cadets’ sword for “Expert Teaching and Professionalism.” He has taught in Africa, Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Philippines, and Vienna.

Akilah Rogers, MBA 2009
Akilah Rogers is an experienced operations leader with a demonstrated history of working in the real estate and hospitality services industry. In her current role at OYO Hotels, Akilah serves as a Northeast Region AVP/Hub Head and manages the Pennsylvania and New Jersey portfolio of business.

She has led markets as General Manager for various private-equity backed start-ups including Manicube and Opendoor and served in Chief of Staff roles at Caesars Entertainment in the Corporate Human Resources and VIP Marketing departments.

Akilah also has 7 years of direct entrepreneurial experience as owner/operator of a 40-property real estate investment portfolio in Chicago and has worked in financial asset management on both the research and marketing sides of the business.

Akilah studied luxury hospitality at the International-University of Monaco and is a graduate of Williams College, with a BA in Economics and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Looking for more information?
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