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Founder Sarah Benoit featured in Asheville Citizen Times

Making the Business and Entrepreneurial Community in Asheville Truly Diverse


I worked closely with Sharon Oxendine, Sadaf Knight, and Lenwood Long, leaders and staff members from the WWBC and the Carolina Small Business Development Fund (CSBDF), to share the message that companies, organizations, professional associations, networking groups, and other business groups need to join the discussion of how our community can increase diversity in professional and entrepreneurship circles throughout Western North Carolina. Not only do we need to have honest dialogue, we also have to identify actionable ways of turning our words and intentions into programs, opportunities,  assistance, and outreach.

As I wrote in the article:

“In this entrepreneurial city, all business owners should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and achieve success. However, in both subtle and overt ways, the marginalization of minority entrepreneurs persists……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.”

Making Diversity a Reality in Asheville

In addition to the message above, the article highlights organizations and groups in the area that are making diversity a living, breathing part of their work in the community, not just talking about it. The Western Women’s Business Center, Green Opportunities, and Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation are all working to support and engage minority business owners and entrepreneurs. Other organizations like Mountain Bizworks and the Carolina Small Business Development Fund are also working with other groups to increase lending opportunities to minority business owners and low income people.

The Carolina Small Business Development Fund also wrote an excellent blog post about this article and the launch of the new African American Business Association in the Asheville region.