When Brittany Henry first started her marketing and communications business, she was a stay-at-home mom with no other job, and her family desperately needed a second income to cover the cost of health insurance.

Henry said she approached a local bank to open a business account and was asked to submit much more paperwork than was necessary to open the account.

“They wanted me to give them everything I had, and that wasn’t necessary or the requirement at the time,” Henry said.

Henry said she also struggled to obtain business capital and since starting her business, has worked additional jobs on and off to supplement her business’s cash flow.

She said that made it challenging to grow the business at a time when her family needed it in order to survive.

Hoping to ensure that other minority business owners don’t face the same obstacles, Henry—who is also a worship leader at Growth Church in Fredericksburg—has founded Joshua’s Hand, a faith-based nonprofit that plans to fund minority business owners in the community.

“It always been in my heart to share the knowledge that I have gained,” said Henry, noting that it was largely other Black female entrepreneurs—many of them single parents—who became her clients and helped her navigate the business world.

Joshua’s Hand is hosting a launch event on Saturday, Oct. 23, at 3 p.m. at the Center for Faith and Leadership across from the University of Mary Washington campus.

Leading up to the event, Joshua’s Hand will match all donations up to $1,000, and will give the total amount to an in-need minority business at the launch.

“We know that a lot of minority businesses struggle to get business capital and have a tendency to fund from their own household income,” Henry said. “So the thought is that by supporting these businesses, they will be able to scale up to a place where they can hire and afford that real estate on Caroline Street.”

The obstacles Henry faced when starting her business are not uncommon among minority entrepreneurs.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency, minority-owned firms are much less likely to be approved for small business loans than white-owned firms.

If they do get approved, they are more likely to receive lower amounts and higher interest rates.

Those discrepancies have made minority business owners more likely to not apply for small business loans out of fear of rejection.

Minority-owned businesses were also less likely to benefit from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which was meant to help small businesses stay open during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An analysis of five million PPP loans by the Reveal reporting network found that businesses in majority-white areas received loans at a greater rate than those in majority Black, Asian or Latino areas.

Henry said that in addition to providing business capital, Joshua’s Hand will provide education, professional development and networking opportunities to minority business owners.

She said she and fellow Joshua’s Hand board members—who include Stanley Johnson, director of worship studies at Cornerstone College of Virginia—have been praying on how to support minorities in the community since last summer, when they held several prayer walks downtown after the murder of George Floyd.

“We knew that we needed to do more, but we didn’t have in mind what else we could do,” Henry said. “We have been praying on this.”

Adele Uphaus–Conner:

540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele