The Keys to Small Business Success


Sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Experts during a panel at the National Association of Black Journalists’ annual convention stressed the importance of capital and opportunity to help underrepresented entrepreneurs succeed.

Susie Sturdivant got straight to the point when asked about her entrepreneurial journey during a luncheon panel for Black journalists and small business owners on Aug. 4 in Birmingham, Alabama. The panel, entitled “Making Small Business Growth Happen” sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, was one of the programs held this year at the National Association of Black Journalists’ (NABJ) annual convention, which gathers thousands of journalists and media professionals from around the U.S. for a week of networking and learning opportunities.

“It wasn’t easy,” Sturdivant said during the panel. She was candid as she shared challenges, such as establishing credit to fund her daycare center, managing payroll, hiring trusted employees and making sure her team was running the center smoothly when she took time off for personal matters.

Such stories aren’t unusual for many who’ve started a business and gone through the process of growth and scale. But Black entrepreneurs like Sturdivant have historically faced greater structural barriers to small business success. Those barriers have often forced underrepresented entrepreneurs to exit their business sooner than they wanted, or have prevented them from starting their businesses altogether.

Mikal Quarles, Head of Diverse Business Strategies at JPMorgan Chase, joined Sturdivant and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on the panel to discuss how small business owners can overcome obstacles to growth and take their businesses to the next level. Alfred A. Edmond Jr., Executive Editor of Black Enterprise, served as the moderator.

“When you think about small businesses, I’m beyond the day where I will accept someone else telling us that what we need is education,” Quarles said. “What we need is access. Sometimes that access is to information, but often it’s to capital and it’s to opportunity.”

For small business owners looking to scale, the panelists shared the following top five takeaways:

  1. Invest in your business….not fancy cars or vacations. By investing in your business, you’re investing in yourself and in your future. 
  • Be purposeful about what you’re trying to accomplish. Have a plan, understand what success means to you and measure progress.
  • Be prepared to pivot and evolve. Be forward looking and be nimble when things inevitably change. You can’t predict what may come your way as your business grows, but by being flexible you will find a way to work around changes and continue reaching your goals.
  • Find the right financial advisor for you and your business. Financial advisors can help with the process of operating a small business, in addition to helping a small business owner establish and manage lines of credit. 
  • Look for support and initiatives from both the public and private sector to develop impactful small business growth strategies. It takes engaged leadership, a collaborative business community and creativity from local organizations to help entrepreneurs funnel their vision into sustainable businesses.

Quarles also discussed how increasing access is a key focus of the five-year, $30 billion Racial Equity Commitment JPMorgan Chase launched in 2020 to help close the racial wealth gap in the U.S. He added that this commitment wasn’t intended to be a “stopping point” for Chase’s efforts to advance economic inclusion among Black, Hispanic and Latino customers and underserved communities. 

As part of the Racial Equity Commitment, JPMorgan Chase now offers diverse small business owners a free one-on-one coaching program with 51 trained Senior Business consultants in 21 U.S. cities to provide mentoring and advice. Through this initiative, the bank has worked with more than 4,000 small business owners to help local entrepreneurs grow, start or expand their small business to date.  Other initiatives include the Special Purpose Credit Program started in 2022, which extends credit to small business owners in majority Black, Hispanic and Latino communities who might not otherwise be approved or receive it on less favorable terms.

Access to capital was part of the initial struggle for Sturdivant when she worked to launch her business,

Little House for Little People Early Learning Center in Bessemer, Alabama. As a mother of three in her 20s at the time, Sturdivant and her husband understood the need for quality daycare for working families, which motivated her to start the center in 2004 with four children. Today, her business serves 100 children in a 10,000 square-foot facility, and she’s opening a second center soon.   

“My success did not come overnight,” Sturdivant said. “But you can do this. You can do this if you invest in yourself and invest in your business. Keep pushing through the trials and challenges. Use every obstacle in your path as an opportunity to learn and work hard to reach your goals. The only thing standing between you and success is you.”

Scenes from NABJ 2023