Empowering Cities and Creating Resilient Small Businesses
The pandemic drastically altered the way we live and work and resulted in massive social and economic changes. Despite these challenges, cities have remained resilient in large part to the small businesses that fuel their economies. Mastercard has relentlessly focused on empowering these businesses with the tools they need to survive and thrive.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with city leaders at the City Innovators event hosted by the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University in partnership with City Possible. It was so inspiring to learn how city makers and their partners around the world are championing economic justice through city programming, finding impactful ways to distribute aid to local businesses, empowering Black-owned businesses and equipping merchants with digital tools and technology. Mastercard is proud to contribute meaningful solutions to help the small business community get paid, get capital and get digital.
Committing to Small Businesses
In 2020, Mastercard committed $250 million over five years to leverage our network, insights, technology, partnerships and philanthropic funds to deliver the resources small business owners need to adapt to new ways of operating. This builds on Mastercard’s commitment to driving a more inclusive digital economy including its commitment to bringing 50 million small and medium-sized businesses into the digital economy, specifically helping 25 million women entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
Mastercard is partnering with governments and cities to help small businesses gain access to the resources they need to succeed and scale. In doing so, we’re democratizing access to solutions that have long been the domain of larger corporations and building commercially sustainable and scalable social impact products that uplift microbusinesses around the world. Mastercard is also providing governments with critical insights on their communities’ economic health and identifying areas for investment.
Bridging the Digital Divide for Cities
Through City Possible, Mastercard partners with small businesses and local governments looking for ways to better serve their communities by unlocking access to capital and access to digital tools needed to sustain and grow their business.
Our solutions are customized to cities’ unique needs and priorities. We work with local governments to move funds to small businesses, developing ways for cities to contract locally. We help cities bundle services that enable digitalization for small businesses, ultimately helping them get paid, and leverage our partnerships to introduce alternative lenders, enabling businesses to get capital.
As businesses continue to shift their operations online, we help cities and nonprofits remain secure through our cybersecurity tools, products and education curriculums available on the Mastercard Trust Center. We also offer access to the Digital Acceleration Program, a platform that provides small companies a pathway to expand their online presence, protect their online operations and adapt to the new business environment. Mastercard also partners with more than 50 companies, such as the Cyber Readiness Institute and digital players in 25 markets to help businesses move online safely and securely.
Partnerships in Action
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are critical to helping vulnerable businesses recover from the impacts of COVID-19. The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth helped partners Grameen America and Community Reinvestment Fund increase capacity to digitalize their platforms and reinvested in them so they could quickly deploy capital to entrepreneurs in need. A $1 million COVID-19 grant enabled Grameen America to go 100 percent virtual and funded critical relief activities for low-income women entrepreneurs such as loan forgiveness, payment holidays and digital repayment fees.
Energize Colorado, an organization that focuses on bridging the racial and economic divides in Colorado and promoting equity in small business’ ecosystems, has a Gap Fund program through which they’ve supplied grants to more than 2,000 small businesses – 57 percent of which were owned by entrepreneurs of color. Energize Colorado and Mastercard are offering free resources and education to small businesses to help them open their digital doors and get access to capital.
Outside of the U.S., Mastercard and Unilever have joined forces to pilot ‘Jaza Duka’ – an innovative solution in Kenya that addresses this key barrier to small business growth. By using shops’ historic purchasing data that Unilever’s distributor network has been recording digitally, Kenya Commercial Bank is able to assess a retailer’s credit worthiness and extend low-interest credit to them, which is disbursed electronically using Mastercard payment technology.
Today’s challenges are too big to combat alone. We believe private-public partnerships are critical for instilling long-lasting change in cities and the small businesses that fuel them. In our upcoming whitepaper, “Reimagining support for small businesses: The path to creating stronger and more resilient small businesses through and beyond COVID-19,” we will offer recommendations on how governments can support the revival of small businesses and unlock their potential through public-private partnerships. Together we can empower every business, everywhere.