Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, black entrepreneurs faced significant challenges in launching and growing their businesses. Discrimination, unequal access to capital, and a lack of mentors in the community continually create barriers for Black-owned start-ups and small businesses, even beyond those faced by all other emerging businesses. The additional pandemic-related burdens, such as government mandates and lost revenue due to shutdowns, put even more pressure on these enterprising businesses.
“Black entrepreneurs face unique challenges due to systemic racism, such as lack of generational wealth and access to capital, and lack of mentorship. COVID-19 has reinforced these inequalities, and Black-owned businesses have been disproportionately denied COVID-19 financial assistance from government programs,” said Jennifer Nelson, executive director of the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program (SDVLP), a nonprofit organization that provides pro bono legal services. services to low-income and other underserved populations.
To help Black business owners navigate challenges and position themselves to thrive during the outbreak, SDVLP has partnered with the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce to co-host webinars on a range of business issues and November 2020. Former Mintz attorney Paul Brockland and attorney Monique Macek, along with former Mintz patent attorney Julia Kottmeier, worked behind the scenes to help organize the events, which included presentations by Mintz lawyers on a wide range of legal issues.
The pro bono effort was an outgrowth of the San Diego Addressing Racial Inequality Group, a San Diego Mintz office initiative launched after a police officer killed George Floyd in May 2020. The group focuses on pro bono community education and intellectual property services to minorities. businesses and engages in other pro bono activities, including mentoring minority students at the University of San Diego Law School.
In the first webinar, “Common Issues Facing Businesses During COVID-19,” attorney Joseph Dunn provided insight into what small businesses should know about the bankruptcy process, joining speakers who covered the legal issues related to commercial lease, business operations and state tax. credits.
“It was rewarding to share expert knowledge with those who might otherwise not be familiar with bankruptcy or have the resources to go and hire someone to advise them,” Joe said.
During another webinar, “How to Grow Your Business During COVID-19,” several Mintz attorneys offered advice, including attorney Fred Hernandez, who discussed patent, trademark, and copyright issues. author affecting small business. Other panelists included former Mintz attorney Sebastian Bacon, who discussed contracts and entity formation, and attorney Micha Danzig, who covered common employment law pitfalls new businesses face. .
“We were honored to be able to provide guidance to members of minority communities who typically don’t have a high percentage of business owners, hopefully giving them a greater chance of success,” Micha said.
To build on the success of the first webinars, the Mintz team is working with the Chamber on a comprehensive IP-focused webinar. In addition to covering patents, licensing and intellectual property litigation, the lawyers will offer an in-depth examination of trademarks and trade dress. Participants will also have the opportunity to meet with a lawyer in a group session to discuss their specific issues.
“It’s important to me that Mintz be part of the community beyond just serving high-paying customers or large corporations,” Fred said. “The community is also the people who live there, including people of color who are underrepresented.”
©1994-2022 Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, PC All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 53