Business Access Advisors help take minority small businesses to the next level 

February 09, 2023
Small business owner Melvin Cannon chatting with Business Access Advisor Micae Brown at a Chicago branch.

The initiative, launched in 2021 as part of U.S. Bank Access Commitment™, has already served more than 1,000 businesses in 2022. 

Melvin Cannon came to U.S. Bank looking for capital to expand his fleet of luxury vehicles. What he received in return was much more, due to the expertise and resources provided by Business Access Advisor (BAA) Micae Brown. 

“Working with Micae has been one of the best things that happened to me in the past year,” said Cannon. “She has given me a lot of insight into how I can grow my business.” 

Brown is one of nine BAAs working with the Black community in strategic cities across the country, helping redefine how U.S. Bank serves diverse communities. The BAA role was created in November 2021 as part of U.S. Bank Access Commitment™, a long-term framework with multiple initiatives, including Access Business and the creation of BAAs, as well as Access Home, which focuses on closing the homeownership gap where disparities are the largest. BAAs are responsible for addressing the three most prominent gaps that limit business growth and employment opportunities: information, connections and capital.

“Melvin originally came to us looking to access capital for his luxury car service,” Brown said. “Fast forward and I later assisted Melvin with acquiring new customers by creating custom emails for marketing, updating marketing collateral, assisting with completing request for proposals, and providing strategic introductions to other potential partners.” 

Cannon is one of more than 1,000 business owners served by U.S. Bank BAAs in 2022. Considering that the BAAs have been in their roles 15 months or less, the impact is evident, leading to recognition in Little Rock by the Small Business Administration and much more. 

Luxury car service owner Melvin Cannon with two vehicles from his fleet.

“Providing knowledgeable professionals who are culturally in sync with the issues minority- and women-owned small businesses face is a qualitative and quantitative resource unique to U.S. Bank,” said Charlotte-based BAA Tamika Stafford.  

Each BAA has the same ultimate objective, but their work shows up in each city uniquely based on local needs and local partners. For example:

  • In Chicago, Brown serves as an advisor to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Office of Minority and Economic Empowerment and the Small Business Development Center on their statewide technical assistance initiative that includes small business centers and entrepreneurship training. 
  • In Charlotte, Stafford established a relationship with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s small business resource partner SCORE Charlotte through which she serves as a mentor and provides resources, tools and learning opportunities. 
  • Little Rock’s Cassandra Kidd is gearing up for her second bus tour with Remix Ideas that will visit entrepreneurs and stakeholders in Northwest Arkansas. The bus tour allows Kidd to engage first-hand with entrepreneurs in each city to educate them on the available resources. 
  • Tim Farrow in the Twin Cities launched Access Commitment Live!, a series to share comprehensive and actionable strategies to help Black-owned businesses scale. It kicked off with a successful Black Business Month event and translated into bi-monthly programming and conversations.
  • The Colorado Springs Business Access Advisor holds a strong partnership with the Colorado Springs Black Chamber of Commerce, whose members talk with her about start-up or business expansion plans. Additionally, she hosts regular financial wealth seminars.
  • Oakland’s Will Jackson is partnering with the OK Mentoring Program to serve as the primary administrator for financial literacy and is soon launching a business series open to small business owners.
  • Delphine Pruitt in Los Angeles collaborates with Community Development Financial Institutions and nonprofit service providers to provide access to financial and advisory services.  
  • Omaha’s Business Access Advisor is focused on building the community “ecosystem” to support diverse entrepreneurs by strengthening relationships with the relatively few community partners targeting diverse business owners.
  • Brandon Willis in Denver collaborates with the Denver International Airport and teaches courses on navigating finance in business to better position minority-owned businesses to earn airport contracts.  

Originally launched as a pilot, U.S. Bank has committed to expansion of the Access Business program. Financial education is central to the BAA role. Pruitt partnered with Los Angeles Urban League to host a series of financial workshops. A workshop attendee referred a friend who needed a vehicle to expand her business. Within three days, the small business owner was approved for a loan and other tools/resources to grow and fuel her dreams. 

“This is just one example of how I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to engage stakeholders and Black business owners to help grow and sustain their business,” said Pruitt. “The impact of COVID–19 caused immense financial distress for small businesses across the country. Black business ownership declined more than 40%, the largest drop across any ethnic group. I’m honored to connect those business owners with resources to help them achieve their goals.” 

As for Cannon and his plans in Chicago, he’s looking at new financial initiatives. 

“Small business owners want to know someone like Micae because she’s resourceful in explaining how and when to take the next step. She has been a business liaison for me, but I also think of her as a friend who really cares about my business. She’s very genuine and I appreciate her a lot.”

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