Local companies aid in startup diversity

Though not nationally considered an overly diverse community, Buffalo’s entrepreneurial scene has gone against many misconceived notions, with diverse local businesses thriving over the last few years.

The most recent U.S. Census from 2010 suggests an uphill battle for diversity among Buffalo entrepreneurs, with the largest portion of Buffalo’s population being Caucasian (50.4), while African Americans (38.6), Hispanics (10.5) and people of Asian descent make up the other half of the population. The struggle for diversity may seem even greater when, according to areavibes.com, men outnumber women 9 to 1 in the City of Buffalo.

Despite these numbers, there has been a surge in diverse businesses and workers across the area, due in large part to several recent initiatives.

43North announced in August that it will sponsor its second annual business plan competition for minorities and women called THE PITCH, which will give a total of $50,000 to local small businesses and growth (startup) companies throughout Buffalo, according to the 43North website. This year, four local entrepreneurs in two categories will present their business plans at the Buffalo Museum of Science on Sep. 28. In the category of Main Street Businesses, Buffalo Healthy Living and Empire Transportation will vie for the  grand prize of $15,000, while in the category of Growth Companies, Coolture, LLC, and PneumaGlide will compete. NYBDC/Excelsior Growth Fund is the Signature Sponsor of THE PITCH, with additional support from KeyBank, ECIDA, Kaleida Health, Foit-Albert Associates, and Iroquois Construction Services.

The University at Buffalo is working in a similar fashion. It has made it a prerogative to help local startups and small businesses by instituting a plan that 15 percent of the school’s spending must go to minority and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) companies, according to the University at Buffalo website.

Since implementing the program, the school has seen the amount of money it has spent on MWBE businesses grow to 41 percent of the budget, as compared with only 7.5 percent in 2011.

In those same five years, the school’s business contracts with minority-owned businesses expanded from .33 percent of the budget to 25.5 percent, according the University at Buffalo website.

For those looking to become certified by the state as MWBE companies, SUNY Buffalo State offers free assistance to get certified, making now an ideal time for minorities with a business idea to get their plan into action.

The University at Buffalo website and 43North have several examples of startups that have succeeded with this initiative. With these opportunities, and countless others, there is no limit to what a diverse company can accomplish in Buffalo.

Read more articles by Sean Brock.

A native of Western New York, Brock has worked in the field of writing and public relations over the past several years, while also gaining a master’s degree from Canisius College this May. He has worked for several universities and professional sports teams in a public relations capacity during that time, and has always kept a love for writing. In his free time Brock enjoys hiking, history, reading and watching as many baseball and football games as he can.   
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