Many people who want to start businesses don't have uncles who are lawyers or parents who run companies: They have to make their own way in the world. This new quarterly series in Columbus CEO celebrates their efforts.

Zuberi Yara always knew she would be a counselor.

“I’ve always known that I would do work with women,” Yara, a Columbus transplant from New Orleans, told writer Brittany Moseley for a profile in the February 2020 issue of Columbus CEO. “Even when I go home to visit, no one is surprised that I’m doing this.”

For the National Guard veteran and retired Nationwide Children’s Hospital counselor who’s now in private practice, “this” is Southern Roots Sistah Center, a place where women of color can gather to decompress and build community. Yara brought her vision to reality with the help of the Ohio Minority Business Direct Loan Program, which funded the purchase of her building on East Livingston Avenue last year. 

Many entrepreneurs of color, immigrants and others from low-income communities do not have the resources necessary for down payments on real estate, large capital purchases or startup expenses. They also don’t have the knowledge and skills networks their wealthier counterparts more frequently experience, as in “My uncle is a lawyer and helped me incorporate my LLC,” or “My mom’s an accountant and does my business taxes.” That makes programs such as the Ohio MBE loans invaluable in spurring economic development in underrepresented communities and helping families build wealth that can be passed from one generation to the next.

To that end, beginning with Yara’s story on page 20 of this issue, Columbus CEO will bring you the stories of small-business owners and startup entrepreneurs from minority communities who have overcome challenges to open businesses in the Columbus region. We created this new quarterly series, called Emerging Business, because many of our black and immigrant-owned businesses have little money for marketing, and most news organizations would not cover them simply because they’re so small. The Emerging Business series gives them valuable exposure in print and on our website. 

Emerging Business also makes connections between our audience, the leaders of larger enterprises, and these businesses as potential partners in a time when organizations are making important strides in diversifying their operations. You won’t be surprised to hear I hope it also inspires and supports readers who want to launch businesses but don’t know where to find funding and support.

Stay up to date with the region’s thriving business scene. Subscribe to Columbus CEO’s weekly newsletter.

In their quest to strengthen the region’s struggling neighborhoods, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Council President Shannon Hardin are beating the same drum with their Reimagining Small Business campaign. The initiative funded a study last year that found small businesses need better support following launch, and that people of color and women face disproportionate challenges in accessing capital. That’s because they lack wealth to begin with and face discrimination from prevailing societal systems and networks. To address this, the city is mobilizing resources to lay a foundation for small businesses, giving them the power to revitalize neighborhoods.

The Emerging Business series stands in support of these important efforts. Many thanks to our partner, Economic and Community Development Institute, in this endeavor. There is no better connected organization to small-business resources and funding in the region, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together.

Katy Smith is the editor of Columbus CEO.