Playing with his little brother
Eleven years old african american boy playing with his 3 years old brother on computer

What if all doors were open to all?

The Entrepreneurs Access Network is helping Black and Latino entrepreneurs break barriers and thrive.

Cleveland is the kind of place where your path always seems to cross with someone you know. It’s a city with a strong sense of camaraderie and relationships that are continually renewed at business meetings, social functions or just by walking around town. So what can be done to bring that same spirit of inclusiveness and civic pride to Cleveland’s business community? 

The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s 2020 Equity & Inclusion Organizational Assessment surveyed 158 companies across an array of industries. It found that, on average, minorities make up only 25% of the workforce, 17% of board members and 13% of management at these companies. Black women make up just 11% of the workforce, 6% of board members and 4% of management, according to the assessment. It also found that Hispanic women make up 2% of the workforce, 1% of board members and 1% of management.¹

This lack of diversity in both entrepreneurship and access to capital has made it difficult to shift the paradigm and create a region of opportunity for all who have the passion, the drive and the skills to lead. To address these systemic disparities, Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) has launched the Entrepreneurs Access Network (EAN),² a program designed to elevate scalable Black- and Latino-owned companies by providing access to resources, networks and capital delivered through a planned curriculum.

"The biggest benefit of the EAN program is we’re able to provide our experience, guidance, mentorship and network relationships to help these entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. It’s been a great learning experience for me to see these small and middle market entrepreneurs get access to the capital and the resources they need. You’ve got to have a high level of intelligence and drive to be able to create a business from scratch and drive that car as you’re growing. These leaders have that drive, and it’s exciting to see them get a chance to take their dreams to the next level."

-  EY US Senior Manager and the Urban League of Greater Cleveland Board Member Julia Dean

Minority-owned companies contribute greatly to the US economy (4.7 million jobs) and capital market ($700b annual revenue).³ EY Global Tax Account Leader Priyanka Chaudhry has witnessed the strength of the collaborative effort of EY US and the Greater Cleveland Partnership to support talented minority entrepreneurs in Cleveland who just need a chance to prove what they can do.

“There is a technology company very much in the startup phase, but with a great vision and a great early product," Chaudhry says. "Our Accounting team has been working with them to think through security and other topics so relevant right now from a cybersecurity standpoint.”

The EAN program builds on the unparalleled EY history of helping entrepreneurs succeed: 35 years of Entrepreneur Of The Year®⁴ and 13 years of Entrepreneurial Winning Women™.⁵ Like those initiatives, the EAN opens the doors of opportunity by giving entrepreneurs access to the powerful EY business and entrepreneurial ecosystem. EAN affords multiple avenues for growth, with a curated program, as well as on-demand learning. Those selected for the curated path come from both emerging (more than two years in business, up to $5m in revenue) and established companies (more than five years in business, $6m in revenue or more) that are more than 51% minority owned.

The curated program pairs these entrepreneurs with EY relationship advisors and Entrepreneur Of The Year mentors who will help build networks inside and outside the firm. The program is designed to create connections with incubators, accelerators, and potential customers and clients. Further, in the spirit of zero barriers, the EAN program content is available to all entrepreneurs who apply regardless of revenue, ownership and operational maturity levels. It offers free access to online curricula, webcasts and other content that can help them achieve their entrepreneurial goals.

Cleveland’s established business leaders can play a key role in helping Northeast Ohio become a place where anyone’s entrepreneurial visions can become reality. “You’re creating more jobs, creating more opportunities for our community,” Chaudhry says. “The way to get involved is to volunteer or encourage their employees and professionals. We’re working to get people engaged and inspired and to create purpose-driven opportunities to make a difference.”

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