Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Those driven to forge their own paths must often remind themselves at each turn that the risk of going into business can, in the end, bring with it the greatest return—life on their own terms. Five years ago U.S.-based web host and domain registrar GoDaddy sought to make that life possible for more small business owners. They are highlighting the progress they’ve made in Baltimore through that venture, in the fourth season of the GoDaddy docuseries Made in America.
At the commencement of the Empower by GoDaddy program in 2017, the multi-billion dollar company had an important goal in mind: equip entrepreneurs in underserved communities with the training and resources necessary to start and grow their own venture. And the reasoning behind it was simple. GoDaddy had already built a workforce of digital teachers, coaches, mentors and advocates. Bringing that to the entrepreneurs who needed that particular skillset to scale their business, but lacked the resources to obtain it, made way for a perfect pairing. Since it’s launch, the initiative has helped more than 5,000 entrepreneurs in more than 40 cities across the globe, B’More being one of them.
“It’s increasingly important to GoDaddy to support all entrepreneurs, no matter their circumstances by meeting entrepreneurs where they are at in their journey and understanding the unique barriers some entrepreneurs face,” read a statement for the initiative shared with EBONY. “By partnering with diverse local nonprofits all over the US, Europe and Canada, the initiative aims to reach those who haven’t otherwise had access.”
Extending itself into Baltimore has proven fruitful. The Charm City, while known for its scenic waterfront as much as its economic challenges, is home to a growing number of micro businesses, many of which were started in the last two years. But in this richly African American metropolis, 1 in 5 people live in poverty and Blacks have a median household income that is 54 percent that of whites. The unemployment rate of Blacks is also three times that of whites. Research compiled by GoDaddy shows that adding just 1 microbusiness per 100 people raises the median income for every household in a community by $485, and each of these entrepreneurs tends to create two new jobs. That means the growth happening among small business owners is not only advantageous to them, but shared by the community at large.
For Baltimore’s GoDaddy cohort, community is at the core of what they do. Susan Clayton, owner of WhitePaws RunMitts can attest to this. Her idea for the company came out of her work with Back on My Feet, an organization that combats homelessness through the power of running, community support and by providing resources for employment and housing. A running coach for the non-profit, Clayton couldn’t find mittens or gloves that kept her fingers and thumbs warm during the cold winter months, so she invented WhitePaws RunMitts. When Susan first launched WhitePaws RunMitts, she was just one of two Black gear company owners in the United States.” Her fortitude landed her an opportunity with REI, one of the largest retail corporations for outdoor recreation services in the country. Clayton recently shared, that while her journey to entrepreneurship did not start off with a “fancy degree” she’s created personal success through leveraging trade jobs as a pathway to entrepreneurship.
Another community-driven business involved with Empower by GoDaddy is Harp Vision. With an online store and a brick and mortar in Baltimore’s Lexington Market, Tyron and April Harper are assisting chronic pain sufferers prioritize their wellbeing. This duo recognizes that time and resources for the people in their Baltimore community to be able to participate in self care rituals may be limited so they’ve created all-natural products to relieve pain and improve quality of life.
The Harper’s recently shared that the opportunity to be involved in the Empower by GoDaddy program, and featured on the latest Made In America docuseries, has been a heart filling endeavor, saying, “Empower Baltimore we are forever grateful for giving us this platform to be transparent and share our highs and lows.” GoDaddy created the production for that reason. They say the purpose of the series is to raise awareness about the challenges of being an entrepreneur, showcase those that are successfully making their own way, and shine a light on how inclusive entrepreneurship can be an effective economic development strategy.