Why The Consumer Plays An Important Role In Supporting Black Business Growth in Colorado 

While August was Black Business Month, consumers can recognize and renew the role they play in supporting Black-owned businesses at any time of the year. There has been growth in overall Black business ownership in recent years although Black entrepreneurs still face challenges that can hinder their success. 

In light of efforts to increase diversity in our community, it’s important to remember you’re helping to contribute to community wealth creation and development for these business owners and across the broader business landscape. When you support and invest in Black-owned small businesses, you are investing in Colorado.  

READ: Celebrating Black Business Owners in Boulder — Leontyne Ashmore’s Barefoot-inspired Shoes

With Denver Startup Week just around the corner from September 18-22, you can show your support by celebrating entrepreneurs in Colorado at an event that showcases a global culture of innovation and features an equity pitch competition.  

Below are a few tips to get you started: 

Make it a priority to shop at Black-owned small businesses

The best and easiest way you can support local Black-owned businesses is with your dollars. Every small business owner relies on a steady stream of customers to make ends meet, innovate and grow, which ultimately fuels the economy as a whole. Familiarize yourself with Black-owned businesses in Colorado and reinvest in your local community when you shop.

Use your networks to amplify Black-owned businesses

Promoting a business you like is just as important as patronizing it — there’s nothing better than a referral from a satisfied customer. Help businesses in your community attract new customers by promoting news and announcements and sharing positive experiences through social media and word of mouth. Many Black-owned small businesses are on popular social media platforms, so be sure to amplify their content and encourage your network to shop at Black-owned businesses in Colorado. 

Share reviews online and on social media platforms

Help promote Black-owned businesses that provide excellent service or products by publishing and sharing positive online reviews. Popular websites like Yelp, Square and Google reviews are critical services that feature customer-provided reviews, which countless consumers rely on to make shopping decisions.

You can find more ways to support Black-owned small businesses in your community here. 

 

Nationally and in Colorado, Bank of America is committed to supporting Black-owned small business clients through a variety of efforts that address the persistent gap in access to growth capital for minority-led businesses and that accelerate the flow of capital into minority and women-led businesses.

In October 2022, the bank was a founding investor of the New Community Transformation Fund-Denver (NCTF-Denver), a Colorado-based black-owned and black woman-led high-touch venture capital firm. To date, NCTF-Denver raised $36 million, of which $20.9 million is subscribed in investments into the fund and has invested $3 million into companies primarily owned and/or operated by founders of color who are located or in Colorado. These early-stage companies have created 109 jobs with 76% of the director and above positions being occupied by persons of color and 41% women.   

 

Raju Patel is the President of Bank of America Colorado.

Danielle Shoots is an NCTF-Denver founding partner and managing director.

Women to Watch 2023 — Bank of America

Everywhere in Colorado, women are leading our business communities to new levels of success. They each have a unique story that has shaped our state through economic, social and enterprising contributions. Yet, at times, these women go unnoticed. ColoradoBiz is here to change that.


With 50% of our global workforce women, Bank of America values differences — in background, experience or viewpoints, including socioeconomic status, race, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identification and expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disabilities and veteran status. By connecting to our diverse backgrounds and perspectives, we can better meet the needs of our colleagues, clients and communities, including right here in Colorado.

We are investing in women through the Bank of America Access to Capital Directory for Women Entrepreneurs, a first-of-its-kind platform that educates women-owned businesses in the U.S. on funding opportunities. We also help women business owners through the Bank of America Marketplace, an online public marketplace and directory with 100+ women entrepreneurs to provide market opportunities.

We look forward to further expanding our presence in Colorado and helping communities across Colorado thrive.

 

This is sponsored content.

Surviving Food Inflation — How Colorado Restaurants Adapt to Rising Costs and Labor Challenges

Like countless other industries, the restaurant industry has been completely redefined by the pandemic. Restaurant owners felt optimistic about the post-COVID world but were immediately presented with a continued headline problem — food inflation.

READ: 5 Ways Small Business Owners in Colorado Can Survive Inflation 

According to new data released from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for food away from home, which include restaurants, vending machines, schools and other foodservice facilities, increased 8.4% year over year in the first quarter of 2023.  

Same-store sales began decreasing in July 2022 after 17 months of continuous increases, according to the National Restaurant Association. Many operators also reported lower customer traffic beginning in June, which was when gas prices hit record highs. 

Other supply chain-related events, which spanned from restaurant equipment (creating issues for restaurant development and timing) to the Avian flu and eggflation issues, also negatively impacted the industry. 

Where are restaurants now? 

Inflation has had a far-reaching impact on the restaurant industry — affecting everything from the cost of materials to wages. 

Although average food prices had decreased slightly by the end of summer 2022, they increased 16.3% from July 2021 to 2022, according to Bank of America. Locally, according to the Colorado Restaurant Association, food prices increased more than 11% in 2022, the most in four decades. Many critical food items like eggs, cheese and butter have seen even more dramatic increases, leaving restaurants no choice but to increase menu prices in response.  

READ: Plant-based Protein is Taking Root in Colorado’s Food Economy

Climate issues like drought, fires and record-setting heat have also limited the availability of crops, exacerbating the food inflation problem. Food brands have found themselves short on vital food products like potatoes and other grains. 

One especially stressful part of the equation for restaurant owners today is how much food inflation passes on to customers. Restaurants need to remain competitive while still retaining a profit. If your restaurant is taking a 10% menu price increase and competitors are only taking 5%, you’re out on a limb.  

In addition to struggling to combat increased food costs, restaurants are also navigating increased labor costs. Although restaurant industry employment has rebounded, employment is still 5% below pre-pandemic levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Two-thirds of operators said their restaurants still don’t have enough employees to support higher customer demand. In Colorado, 8 out of 10 local restaurants are struggling to hire enough staff even as industry wages have risen an average of 20%, according to the Colorado Restaurant Association. 

Together, food and labor costs account for about two-thirds of every dollar of a typical restaurant’s sales, according to the National Restaurant Association, which is why 2022 has proved so challenging for restaurant operators and their bottom lines.  

Restaurants have increased wages not only to attract workers but also to compete with other employers, particularly retail outlets. When major employers like Target, Amazon and CVS move to a $15 wage, it doesn’t matter what the federal minimum wage is. Restaurants must compete. 

READ: Rising Food Costs Create Unique Challenges for Hunger-Focused Agencies

What’s next? 

Although the outlook is uncertain with the threat of a possible recession on the horizon, indicators are displaying that any recession will likely be modest and manageable. Restaurants should take advantage of the lessons they have learned in the past few years and find hope in the signs that the worst is behind us. 

Grocery store costs increased at a higher rate than restaurant costs in the summer of 2022. Now, that widening price gap makes restaurant meals a better deal for many consumers. With about half (46%) of adults reporting that they are not eating at restaurants as often as they would like, the higher cost of groceries could drive customers back to restaurants. 

What’s more, chicken prices are expected to decrease in 2023 due to a significant improvement in production, although the impact of a lengthy war in Ukraine still hovers over future supplies and prices. And the labor situation seems to be stabilizing as well, as stimulus payments have ended, and people are reentering the workforce. Job openings peaked in March but tumbled by 1.1 million by August. 

The key components for restaurant owners are employees and partners, making labor and training significant factors for restaurants. The labor market continues to be tight but there are signs of hope. Restaurants have learned to operate with fewer people and rely more on technology which is necessary as the labor market continues to tighten. Unemployment appears to be on the rise which allows for more workers to be available to work in restaurants, serving as line cooks, servers and hosts, among a number of other services. 

READ: Veteran Unemployment: Untapped Workplace Resources

Restaurants must learn how to quickly pivot, whether that means embracing innovation or improving their services by being more flexible and adaptable. Restaurants must also learn to operate with fewer employees and rely more on technology.   

While restaurants have faced countless challenges and rising food inflation in the past few years, the setbacks have only proven how resilient the industry is. Those that made it through 2022 relatively unscathed should be proud. The future seems promising for brands that can weather these storms and welcome eager consumers back to their tables.

 

Cristin O’Hara headshotCristin O’Hara is the Managing Director and Head of Restaurant Group at Bank of America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ty M. Aslin headshot

 

Ty M. Aslin is the Colorado Market Executive for Business Banking at Bank of America 

 

 

GUEST COLUMN — President of Bank of America and DDP on the Power of Economic Diversification

Downtown Denver has positioned itself for continuous growth and success despite the challenges and changes stemming from a post-pandemic environment. Denver ranked sixth for the fastest-growing city in the US economy and as the best large city to start a business. Denver’s quality of life attracts talent, innovation and venture funding, which is contributing to significant economic growth in the area.

Recently, the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) hosted its 2023 Economic Outlook, focusing on perspectives from industry leaders about how businesses — from startups to established companies — are navigating economic challenges and opportunities, their stories of success and their predictions for Denver’s future. Participants and business leaders gained insights and tools to help them make the decisions and implement strategies needed to navigate emerging economic conditions and ensure success.

READ: Open for Business — Four Priorities for Maintaining Colorado’s Economic Competitiveness

According to the DDP, Denver venture funding soared to an all-time high of 1.9 billion in Q2 of 2022, a 111% increase. To sustain a vital and thriving downtown area, attracting new businesses to relocate is not enough. Investing in the expansion of large corporations is not the full story either. Our future economy will be shaped by our ability to start and grow small businesses right here in Denver.

Recognizing the impact small businesses and entrepreneurs have on our local economy and business community, Bank of America deploys the resources, tools and capital to help businesses launch and grow. As we examine the impacts of an uncertain market, small business owners nationwide are concerned about key economic factors such as inflation, commodities prices and supply chain, fueling anxiety around their overall outlook. According to Bank of America 2023 Small Business Owner Report, while the majority of U.S. small business owners (72%) are concerned about the impact of a potential recession, 76% are confident their business could withstand the downturn.

Moreover, despite the continued impact of inflation and supply chain issues, 65% of business owners anticipate revenue growth in the next 12 months. Additionally, findings from the Bank of America Institute suggest that small businesses saw little interruption to their operations in March, with spending growth in line with recent trends. Notably, payroll spending growth ticked up even as wage inflation decelerated in March, pointing to resilient small business hiring despite the uncertainties.

READ: Unlocking the Power of Data for Small Businesses: How Data Implementation Drives Business Growth and Success

Inclusivity and economic prosperity for communities of color

Through local partnerships with organizations, capital, tools and personalized service, Bank of America does everything we can to help businesses grow and realize their dreams. For example, the bank has invested in the launch of the New Community Transformation Fund (NCTF) in Denver, the first Black-owned, woman-led venture capital firm in Colorado. The fund invests in early to mid-stage businesses owned and operated by entrepreneurs of color. This investment is an example of how the bank directs capital and resources to expand the business sector, support the workforce and strengthen the overall community.

By accelerating the flow of capital into funds that invest in Black/African American, Hispanic-Latino, other under-represented minority- and women-led businesses, we can help level the playing field and drive greater job and wealth creation in Colorado.

READ: Celebrating Black Business Owners in Boulder — Leontyne Ashmore’s Barefoot-inspired Shoes

New and emerging technologies

Looking to the future, business owners believe new technologies will be critical to risk reduction and success. Many business owners have already begun aggressively incorporating new technologies. An earlier publication of the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report noted 70% of business owners reported having adopted new digital tools and strategies, including accepting more forms of cashless payments and banking more via online and mobile apps. Longer-term, 44% of business owners plan to prioritize digital sales over brick and mortar, and many believe that cybersecurity and automation will be critical to success.

How and where we work in 2023

Normalization of remote work has slowed the return to office, which in turn, has increased office vacancies to historic levels. While downtown Denver is currently at a 55% occupation rate during the weekdays, above the national average, the shortage of skilled talent is driving companies to offer commute-worthy office spaces and amenities to retain and attract talent as employees continue to demand flexibility. The power of place is increasingly important, positioning downtown Denver and the quality of life we enjoy as an appealing place for talent to establish their roots in, especially from higher-cost coastal cities.

Through the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, we can work together to solve big challenges and make bold moves to grow our economy. At the end of the day, vibrant communities + strong business = a great city.

 

Kourtny Garrett HeadshotRaju Patel HeadshotKourtny Garrett is the President & CEO Downtown Denver Partnership and Raju Patel is the President of Bank of America Colorado

 

4 Ways to Offer Wellness Tools and Retain Your Workforce

As labor shortages continue to impact companies across industries, businesses are shifting their focus to employee retention. According to Bank of America’s recent Workplace Benefits Report, 46% of employers have seen an increase in resignations over the past year while one in three employees have switched jobs or thought about switching jobs. Colorado’s labor force participation rate dropped to 69.2% in November 2022 and according to some media reports, Colorado’s unemployment rate could go to 9.4% next year. That’s why it’s more important than ever to retain your workforce.

READ: Guest Column — Helen Young Hayes Talks Talent Pipeline Disruption

Our research shows employees are significantly stressed by current economic conditions, leading to a decrease in their feelings of personal financial wellness. The percentage of employees who feel financially well hit a five-year low in July 2022. Perceptions of financial wellness are also impacted by ethnicity, gender, and generational factors. For instance, women continue to trail men in their feelings about financial wellness and preparedness, and employees of color report significantly lower feelings of financial wellness compared to white employees.

Many leaders already feel responsible for their employees’ financial well-being. However, as employers address record levels of turnover amid a period of economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to provide additional support and resources. What can leaders do to retain their workforce? A vast majority of employers now say that offering financial wellness tools can reduce employee attrition, and wellness tools can help attract higher-quality employees. To help retain your workforce, you should consider the following:

Embrace employee financial wellness and expand support.

Given higher than usual inflation, employees are feeling the pinch financially. Employers should embrace programs, such as financial coaching and digital tools that help employees better plan and manage their finances. For example, 91% of companies see higher employee satisfaction when they offer resources to manage overall wellbeing. Companies that take it a step further and broaden their wellness programs to include mental and physical wellness resources see noticeable improvements in productivity, employee stress, morale, creativity, and innovation.

READ: The Top 5 Ways You Can Support Mental Health in the Workplace

Providing access to investment advice.

Employees are eager to invest and grow their wealth, which can be an intimidating process. Four-in-ten employees say they want access to advice from an investment professional. Armed with that knowledge, 62% of employers now offer employees access to investment advice services. Whether it’s an internal team or external partner, give your team the tools they need to feel confident in financial decisions.

Focusing on health care education.

84% of employers feel very responsible for their employees’ understanding of retirement healthcare needs and costs, and 89% of employers who offer Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) contribute to their employees’ savings. Yet, only 54% of employers communicate about these topics at least once a year. There’s a big opportunity to improve communication and educate employees about their healthcare benefits. Take the time to remind them about their options, especially as you gear up for open enrollment.

Equity grants are powerful recruitment and retention incentives.

As an employer, you have insight into compensation and should regularly review pay and conduct an equity analysis. 76% of employers believe equity compensation is a differentiator for employee recruitment and retention, and 44% of employees who participate in equity compensation plans say it was an important reason for accepting the job.

The Bottom Line

Employers serve as significant advocates for their company and work, which is why it’s important that they have the resources and tools to bring their best selves to work. Employers can help by taking the initiative and give your team the tools to not only survive but retain your workforce in this new world of recruiting.

 

New HeadshotTy M. Aslin is the Colorado Market Executive for Business Banking at Bank of America

The internship that is preparing students to change the world

Last summer, I was given the opportunity to participate in Bank of America’s Student Leaders program, alongside 300 other high school juniors and seniors. It was an eight-week, paid internship dedicated to connecting youth to training, tools and resources to help make our communities stronger.

As a 2021 Student Leader, I developed leadership and workforce skills by working at Mile High United Way. The program emphasized the importance of nonprofit work and civic engagement, and a highlight was the time I spent talking to other Student Leaders about the issues they were passionate about. It was energizing to be surrounded by so many young people who share my dedication to advocacy and creative problem solving.

Without access to opportunities to build career skills and earn a paycheck, many young people like myself may be left behind, leading to high rates of youth unemployment and hindering overall economic progress.

Through this program, I explored the possibility of a profession in the nonprofit sector and gained insight into the inner workings of an organization doing critical work. It has always been a dream of mine to run a nonprofit, but I never imagined that I would be able to talk to the CEO of one of the largest nonprofits in the city, let alone present a project to her. Previous Student Leaders have been inspired to pursue careers and employment at nonprofit and community organizations like City Year Denver and Habitat for Humanity after completing their Student Leader programs.

During my experience, I was particularly impressed with Mile High United Way’s “Bridging the Gap” program, which helps young adults who have aged out of the foster care system find stability. Listening to the incredible stories of the lives changed by the program reinvigorated my determination to make the world a more equitable place. I also enjoyed engaging in broader conversations focused on social justice, civil rights and how to build a more diverse and inclusive society. I felt like I was at the forefront of change and developed connections that will last a lifetime. 

This experience was truly transformative for me, clarifying my passion for social policy and nonprofit work as I enter college. I gained a network of knowledgeable adults to guide me and valuable experience in both the business and nonprofit worlds. 

I look forward to leveraging the experiences I gained and the lessons I learned as a Student Leader to become a future changemaker, advocate, and leader.

It is never too early to start thinking about paid summer internships and experience, which is why I encourage current high school juniors and seniors to apply to this great program. Bank of America is currently accepting student applications for its competitive 2022 Student Leaders program through January 28.

To apply to become a 2022 Student Leader, students must:

  • Currently be a junior or senior in high school
  • Be a student in good standing
  • Be able to participate in an eight-week paid internship at a local nonprofit organization and work 35 hours per week
  • Be legally authorized to work in the U.S. without sponsorship through the end of September 2022
  • Obtain a letter of recommendation from a teacher, guidance counselor, or school administrator

If you or someone you know wants to make a difference, you can learn more and apply online at www.bankofamerica.com/studentleaders.

Kalina Kulig Photo Kalina Kulig was a 2021 Denver Summer Student Leader.