The pioneers behind Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator

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It was a simple coffee break that brought together the great minds behind Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator. Tiffany Johnson, Jeremy Erdman and Rachad Lewis make up the trio of Amazon employees who stepped beyond their job descriptions and convinced a growing group of champions within the company that there was a need—and a viable plan—to help Black business owners succeed as selling partners in Amazon’s store.

In short, during a coffee break, Lewis who is a member of Amazon’s Black Employee Network was introduced to Erdman who was eager to connect with that affinity group. During a discussion on making a big difference for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts Lewis realised that Johnson, A fellow BEN member, who grew up in the South American nation of Guyana had similar big ambitions. Johnson considered how tailored outreach and support for Black businesses could hit the same sweet spot of increasing opportunity for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

Their teamwork culminated in the launch of Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator (BBA)—a $150 million pledge that explicitly targets barriers to access, opportunity, and advancement created by systemic racism across America and provides capital, mentorship, and marketing support to thousands of Black entrepreneurs.

Black entrepreneurs have less access to capital, mentorship, and growth opportunities. They are also significantly underrepresented in retail. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 6% of U.S. retail businesses have a Black owner—even though Black Americans represent 14% of the U.S. adult population.

“I’m excited to see how much we grow a lot of these Black-owned businesses and add to the economic empowerment of their communities, When I speak to a lot of the business owners, there’s that lack of awareness of how to sell on Amazon, what sort of resources are out there, and how to access that. I want this program to bridge that gap.”
– Tiffany Johnson, Amazon employee, Black Business Accelerator pioneer

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