Basic Black: Mentoring new leaders

For entrepreneurs of color, two obstacles can stand in the way of success: money and mentorship. But local business leaders who joined Callie Crossley on Basic Black say they are working to change that by supporting and uplifting professionals.

"Mentoring is something that is really important, particularly for BIPOC professionals and business owners," said Colette Phillips, president of CPCGlobal public relations firm.

"What mentorship does, it gives you access and opportunity, because mentors can open doors for you," she added. "Mentors can help to lift you up. Mentors can be sponsors in the sense that they can advocate for you."

Although Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I have a dream" speech 59 years ago, people of color still face deep inequality, and local leaders are working to address the barriers that can hold entrepreneurs back.

"We prepare all of our participants to really be knowledgeable about what they're willing to give and what do they need to learn and be really true to themselves, and we provide and connect the dots for them and we give them all the best that Babson has to offer," said Dr. Shakenna Williams, executive director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College.

Business leaders of color are mentoring others against a system of structural racism, and they say confidence and a clear approach are necessary for success.

"Many of us are charting paths that just haven't been walked before, and that's OK," said Andrés Holder, executive director of the Boston Children's Chorus and a sponsor in the Network for Arts Administrator of Color program at ArtsBoston.

"Do I know that the world can be tough out there as a queer man, as a Black Latino man? Absolutely," he said. "Am I going to apply that to my learning? Absolutely."

Michael Omenazu, vice president of investment firm Visible Hands, said his program helps to prepare mentors and mentees to recognize systemic barriers to entrepreneurship, such as the racial wealth gap and access to capital.

"Folks that come to our program understand those critical objectives or those critical barriers to the journey," Omenazu said.

Watch: Business leaders discuss the importance of mentorship on Basic Black