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I was in Oakland when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit in 1989 and brought a section of the Bay Bridge crashing down. Leaders then had a choice – to restore the bridge to how it was, or to reevaluate and strengthen its support system to withstand future shocks. They chose the latter.
As we emerge from the pandemic, our nation has the same choice to make — for our economy and for our businesses, specifically small businesses and start-ups.
The pandemic has exposed the flaws and the fissures in our economy. One in three small businesses have closed. Nearly two million women have been forced out of the workforce.
In this moment, more than repair, we must reimagine. And after providing $ 60 billion in relief to small businesses, we must work to broaden access to capital and remove other barriers to success for entrepreneurs across the country.
First, capital. I recently met Lorena Cantarovici, the owner of an artisan empanada business in Colorado. She started her business, as so many do, in her own kitchen. When she sought out a loan to expand, the banks she approached told her she was, in their words, “not bankable.” Through hard work, she proved them wrong. Her business has since expanded to multiple locations, and she has employed many people.
This is a familiar story. Traditional banks and venture capital firms have not always seen the vision of women entrepreneurs and those of color. Community lenders, on the other hand, were founded to see that vision. Community lenders understand the value in providing access to capital in communities of color and low-income communities – and because they do, they add value to those communities and our country.
When I was in the United States Senate, I worked to secure an additional $ 12 billion for community lenders. Now, we are working to build on that investment. Together, we must help every American entrepreneur get the capital they need to realize their vision.
There are other barriers to success. Danielle Romanetti owns a small yarn shop in Virginia. I visited with her and several of her employees a few months ago. They spoke about how hard it was, during the pandemic, for women business owners to go without childcare. Some have had to make deliveries to customers with children in the car. Others have had to bring their children to work.
For women entrepreneurs – and all entrepreneurs – the pandemic has highlighted the importance of our nation’s care infrastructure.
For so many, care is the bridge to building a business. That is why, as we work to improve roads to transport goods, improve transit for consumers, and ensure affordable and accessible high-speed Internet, President Joe Biden and I are also working to ensure affordable and accessible child and family care.
In the face of the unimaginable, America’s entrepreneurs made the choice to reimagine their businesses. Stores – like Danielle’s – have had to quickly pivot online to retain customers, tapping into a demand likely here to stay. Restaurants – like Lorena’s – have had to create outdoor dining to do the same. Meanwhile, innovators of all types have created new products for the moment.
Today, our nation must reimagine our economy, so that every American entrepreneur can launch and grow an enterprise. It is in this reimagining that we will remain competitive – and come out of this pandemic stronger than before.
Gastkommentar: Kamala Harris
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Dieses Gastkommentar erschien in unserer Ausgabe 8–21 zum Thema „Women“.