AEO Providing Pathways to Economic Freedom

The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) is equipping Black entrepreneurs with the tools needed in a post-pandemic world


Amid forced closings, modified re-openings, and weakened demand, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses are well documented. The number of active business owners fell by 22 percent from February to April 2020 alone — the largest drop ever on record. 

While the overall decline is significant, differences among closure rates across racial and ethnic groups are even more striking. The number of active Black-owned businesses dropped 41 percent, from 1.1 million to 640,000. And for the businesses who have been able to keep their doors open, less than 10 percent would describe their business as profitable and growing. 

This imbalance comes after nearly twenty years of Black entrepreneurs starting businesses at a higher rate than the rest of the country’s population. 

AEO’s RESILI Platform

As Black entrepreneurs and small business owners continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, Capital One is proud to continue our long-standing partnership with the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, helping equip Black entrepreneurs with the tools and resources needed to navigate obstacles and grow their businesses in a post-pandemic world.

Celebrating 30 years, AEO’s mission is to create economic opportunity for underserved entrepreneurs throughout the United States. Through their new, easy-to-navigate Resili platform, entrepreneurs have the power to choose between online training courses, webinars and a variety of additional resources that cover small business topics like social media marketing, accounting, taxes and general business strategy.

The program also starts with a business health assessment tool to help holistically identify where businesses require improvement and where new approaches to critical functions like marketing or operations are needed. Following the assessment, an AEO coach reviews the results with business owners to discuss priorities and what support services the small business might need to engage.

For entrepreneurs, there is power in sharing and engaging with your peers. Resili’s growing Facebook community (400+ members and counting) offers another opportunity for Black entrepreneurs to connect, discuss course materials, share best practices and build an ecosystem of mutual support. This platform allows entrepreneurs to connect with one another across industry and region, share their unique hurdles and offer support, including information about new grants and other resources.

"Small businesses continue to face extreme hardship and uncertainty during this time. That’s why we’ve doubled down on our support for the businesses and communities that are most vulnerable," said Connie Evans, President and CEO at AEO. "Capital One’s support is vital to our programming and is helping create access to both the capital and resources needed for Black-owned businesses to navigate this crisis and aid in their long-term success."

As with everything AEO does, all of the content on Resili is the result of in-depth research and engagement within the Black entrepreneurial community to identify the topics and resources that are of greatest need.

A Call for Change

While COVID-19’s outsized impact on the Black community reflects public health and socioeconomic disparities that have long been intertwined, the pandemic also underscored opportunities to invest in addressing challenges to help Black Americans recover and to build and sustain more equitable communities.

As a business that is deeply invested in advancing socioeconomic mobility in underserved communities, Capital One recognizes the devastating impact the pandemic has had on communities of color. Our partnership with AEO is an extension of our larger commitment to advancing racial equity, including work through the Capital One Impact Initiative. Launched last fall, the Impact Initiative is a $200 million multi-year commitment delivering community grants that will catalyze economic growth in low-and-moderate income communities and close equity and opportunity gaps.

“The Association for Enterprise Opportunity’s mission is a critical one because they assist underserved entrepreneurs in starting, stabilizing and expanding their businesses,” said Theresa Bedeau, Community Impact and Investing Lead at Capital One. “Capital One is proud to support the Resili program as it’s helping Black entrepreneurs reassess the overall health of their businesses post-pandemic, establish financial well-being and secure their futures.”

Looking Ahead

AEO’s 2021 priorities are focused on building food equity, supporting microbusinesses that increase food security and drive economic impact. Because the retail, restaurant, and hospitality industries were hit the hardest during the pandemic, they’re looking to work with businesses to provide revenue-generating opportunities for restaurants and expand economic opportunities for women-owned and minority-owned restaurants.

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