Ensuring that everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream. By Kamala Harris
Plus: How much is President Biden’s cabinet worth?
The pandemic has prompted a surge in entrepreneurship, voluntary and involuntary. How do we leverage this moment to ensure that everyone who wants to pursue the American Dream can do so? The United States’ first female, Black and Asian-American vice president weighs in on this opportunity.
Iwas in Oakland, California, when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit in October 1989 and brought a section of the Bay Bridge crashing down. Leaders then had a choice: to restore the bridge to how it was, or to reevaluate and strengthen its support system to withstand future shocks. They chose the latter.
As we emerge from the pandemic, our nation has the same choice to make—for our economy and our businesses, specifically small businesses and startups.
The pandemic has exposed the flaws and the fissures in our economy. One in three small businesses has closed. Nearly 2 million women have been forced out of the workforce. And millions of families have struggled to buy groceries and cover rent.
In this moment, more than repair, we must reimagine. And after providing $60 billion in relief to small businesses, we must work to broaden access to capital and remove other barriers to success for entrepreneurs across the country.
First, capital. I recently met Lorena Cantarovici, the owner of an artisanal empanada business in Colorado. She started her business, as so many do, in her own kitchen. When she sought a loan to expand, the banks she approached told her she was, in their words, “not bankable.” Through hard work, she proved them wrong. Her business has since expanded to multiple locations, and she has employed many people.
This is a familiar story. Traditional banks and venture capital firms have not always seen the vision of women entrepreneurs and those of color. Community lenders, on the other hand, were founded to see that vision. Community lenders understand the value of providing access to capital in low-income communities and those of color— and because they do, they add value to those communities and our country.
When I was in the United States Senate, I worked to secure an additional $12 billion for community lenders. Now, we are working to build on that investment. Together, we must help all American entrepreneurs get the capital they need to realize their vision.
There are other barriers to success. Danielle Romanetti owns a small yarn shop in Virginia. I visited with her and several of her employees a few months ago. They spoke about how hard it was, during the pandemic, for women business owners to go without child care. Some have had to make deliveries to customers with children in the car. Others have had to bring their children to work.
For female entrepreneurs (and all entrepreneurs) the pandemic has highlighted the importance of
our nation’s care infrastructure. For so many, care is the bridge to building a business. That’s why, as we work to improve roads to transport goods, improve transit for consumers and ensure affordable and accessible high-speed internet, President Joe Biden and I are also working to ensure affordable and accessible child and family care.
In the face of the unimaginable, America’s entrepreneurs made the choice to reimagine their businesses. Stores like Danielle’s have had to quickly pivot online to retain customers, tapping into demand that’s likely here to stay. Restaurants like Lorena’s have had to create outdoor dining to do the same. Meanwhile, innovators of all types have created new products for the moment.
Today, our nation must reimagine our economy so that every American entrepreneur can launch and grow an enterprise. It is in this reimagining that we will remain competitive—and come out of this pandemic stronger than before.