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Economy / Business

St. Petersburg Program Wants To Open Doors For Minority Businesses

Inclusive St. Pete slide
Business owners interested in Inclusive St. Pete attended an information session Thursday. BRADLEY GEORGE/WUSF

Running a small business is tough. For African American entrepreneurs like Shawntavia Turner, there are additional barriers.

Turner, owner of TurnKey Real Estate Brokerage, says the biggest challenge for growing her business is a lack of access.

“Access to programs that help support our startup capital, getting certifications to be able to access the capital. I think it's a disconnect between business owners and the city,” she said.

Turner and other minority business owners were at St. Petersburg College’s downtown campus Thursday for the launch of a new program that aims to erase that disconnect.

Inclusive St. Pete aims to train and certify small, minority-owned businesses to successfully bid for corporate and government contracts. With help from the St. Petersburg Chamber and city government, the clearinghouse is also helping connect those businesses with companies and institutions looking to diversify their supplier base.

Inclusive St. Pete builds on the work of Pinellas County, which overhauled its small business supplier program earlier this year to focus on minority-owned firms.

RELATED: USF Attempts To Diversify Suppliers

“Just having a contract, a large-scale contract, in and of itself with the county, kind of solidifies your company and put you on the map as a business that's ready for growth,” said Elizabeth Siplin. Her business consultancy, Empact Solutions, recently won a contract from the county.

Inclusive St. Pete is an intiative of the 2020 Plan, which aims increase employement and reduce poverty in South St. Petersburg. The program is also backed by the Florida Minority Supplier Development Council, which has certified over 900 businesses in the state.

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