eqtble CEO Joseph Ifiegbu Shares Why Having A Support System Is a Key to Entrepreneurial Sustainability

For many Black entrepreneurs, the conversation around Black-owned businesses dominated the mainstream for the first time in the wake of protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality in 2020. Rallying cries to support local Black-owned businesses and startups were posted to social media pages across the world, but four years later, they still suffer from a system-wide lack of support. 

While many will tell you that running a business has never been an easy job, Black entrepreneurs continue to face unique obstacles from the minute they begin their journey to starting a thriving business. 

Entrepreneurs in minority communities face a lack of financial guidance, access to capital to start their businesses and higher startup costs than their white peers. Not only that, but a report from Forbes found that nearly 80% of Black business owners claimed they had faced racism from their customers before and felt the pressure of being judged more harshly than their white peers.

That’s where companies like Justworks step in to alleviate some of the immense pressure that prevents Black business owners from succeeding. The HR company provides services like payroll and user-friendly HR software and is crucial in bridging the gap in resources to help businesses build infrastructure and expand from a small operation to one that can compete with more established companies in their space.

“Having a support system of other Black entrepreneurs has been invaluable,” says Joseph Ifiegbu, co-founder and CEO of eqtble. “We uplift and empower each other, share resources and knowledge and navigate challenges together, making the journey towards achieving our business goals more manageable and fulfilling.” 

Ifiegbu knows better than most the importance of having a community around you when growing a business. A leader in data science, Ifiegbu lent his talent to tech companies such as Snap and organizations like WeWork until he decided to use his skills to create his own company. Connecting with other Black entrepreneurs who’ve had similar experiences, both good and bad, showed him he wasn’t alone in facing these challenges as a Black entrepreneur and helped him develop the skills he needed to help eqtble prosper. 

In a time where almost 60% of Black entrepreneurs are denied bank loans as they begin the process of forming their businesses, some may have no one to lean on amid the confusion about finances. “Navigating the complexities of the business world and fundraising can be daunting, particularly without adequate guidance and mentorship,” says Ifiegbu. 

Visibility is another highly contentious issue for innovators trying to bring their products to the masses. While some retailers have made strides in recent years to be more inclusive on their shelves, displaying Black-owned products in vast rows of beauty-supply and hair-care aisles, Black entrepreneurs still face bias when seeking partnerships or investments with big-name chains.  

“Building relationships, showcasing excellence and advocating for diversity and inclusion are essential steps in fostering a more welcoming environment for Black entrepreneurs,” Ifiegbu says of large retailers. Without it, companies are missing out on the innovation that minority entrepreneurs bring to the table. 

As an experienced CEO, Ifiegbu knows what qualities it takes for Black business owners to not only survive but thrive in the space. The key to finding success in the fast-paced and often cut-throat business industry is to maintain a balancing act of being resilient in the face of setbacks and being authentic about your ambitions and relationships with customers, employees and investors. 

Being authentic “fosters genuine connections with employees, customers and stakeholders, leading to trust and loyalty,” shares Ifiegbu. Having a strong sense of loyalty allows customers to help grow small businesses into beloved community strongholds. 

Entrepreneurs hoping to grow their businesses also have to make sure that they’ve created an environment that allows them to adapt to change and nurture crucial connections with people who have endured similar experiences. 

“Surround yourself with mentors, advisors and fellow entrepreneurs who can offer guidance, support and opportunities for collaboration,” Ifiegbu advises fellow entrepreneurs. “Continuously seek new ideas, technologies and approaches to differentiate your business and stay ahead in a competitive market.”

Supporting Black entrepreneurs is crucial not only to the success of their businesses, but also to the success of the Black communities they serve. These local business ventures “create job opportunities, generate wealth and contribute to the community’s overall prosperity and resilience,” Ifiegbu asserts. 

Perhaps the most valuable gift these businesses offer to their communities is hope. Black entrepreneurs, who persevere in the face of odds stacked against them, “serve as sources of inspiration and representation, showcasing the potential for success and leadership within the Black community,” he concludes.

Updated: April 16, 2024 — 3:01 pm