This week, we are sharing a enlightening guest column by our partners, Sarah Benoit of JB Media Group and the JB Media Institute, in the Asheville Citizen-Times on the challenges minorities face in Asheville and western NC. The column was published on August 14, and can be found here.
In the column, Sarah discusses the marginalization of minority entrepreneurs in the Asheville business community, despite being known as an open and progressive city. She calls for business leaders to make diversity and inclusion a core value:
“To create truly inclusive spaces we must go beyond our good intentions. We must recognize this as a major challenge in our city and accept that a history of marginalization cannot be undone by words alone. Unless we are bold enough to call out our challenges, we will not be bold enough to solve them. This means every networking group, business association, professional organization, and entrepreneurial circle in Asheville must be open to talking about diversity and doing more than just saying everyone is welcome. They must reach out to communities of color and invite them to be present, participate and contribute. Achieving inclusion requires a concerted effort to first adopt diversity as a core value and then to follow through with action.”
Sarah also points to local groups, like our Western Women’s Business Center, Eagle Market Street Development Corporation, and Green Opportunities that are working to create spaces and opportunities for minority owned businesses.
In fact, just this week, the WWBC launched the first African American Business Association. The inaugural meeting included 22 participants, and was co-hosted by well-known local entrepreneur, Joe Greene. The association will meet monthly and will provide an opportunity for African-American business owners to network, learn from other successful entrepreneurs, and access education and training on business topics.
This is the type of initiative that is needed to make our communities truly inclusive and representative of our diversity. Of course, this is not an easy task. But organizations like the WWBC and others show that we can take steps to achieve this goal. As Sarah says, “They shed light on our city’s challenge with diversity and inclusion, but also provide examples of what we can do to truly live up to our reputation.”