Breaking Barriers to Business

Where It Starts: Breaking Barriers to Business


Implementing Truist Foundation's Signature Small Business Initiative

Main Street America, along with
Living Cities and enabled by Truist Foundation, has an opportunity to support cross-sector leaders in accelerating wealth-building pathways for business owners of color in their communities by ensuring that they and entrepreneurs  have equitable access to expertise and capital they need to start, preserve, and grow their business. 

Project Overview

Partnering with place-based leaders from our current networks in local government and business support organizations (managing entities), this project aims to:
  • Address the gaps in access to capital
  • Shift private and public policies and practices
  • Provide critical technical assistance for entrepreneurs of color. 
We will help map key entrepreneurial ecosystem domains, identify gaps, provide financial support and technical business expertise, and foster peer learning for participating cities.

Supporting Partner

Truist Foundation is committed to Truist Financial Corporation’s (NYSE: TFC) purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. Established in 2020, the foundation makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. Truist Foundation’s grants and activities focus on building career pathways to economic mobility and strengthening small businesses.

Truist Foundation is built on the belief that all people and communities should have an equal opportunity to thrive. Through this partnership and a focus on the following key areas, Truist Foundation believes the communities they serve have a chance for a better quality of life.

The Cities

Stories from the Corridors

As we learn what it takes to drive changes in participating pilot cities, we will uplift lessons, data, and stories. We’ll post these stories on the program webpage, our blog, and through social media.

Allapattah Collaborative CDC | Miami, Fla.

The Allapattah Collaborative (TAC) in Miami, Fla., is one of the five cohort corridors in the Where It Starts: Breaking Barriers to Business initiative. 

Located northwest of Downtown Miami, Allapattah and Little Santo Domingo are among Miami’s oldest and most diverse neighborhoods. Allapattah is currently a largely working-class area, with 8 out of 10 households qualifying as low- and middle-income. The historic neighborhood is now beginning to see signs of gentrification and displacement due to rising rental costs for both residential and commercial properties. Real estate developers and investors are beginning to show increased interest in the area due to its proximity to high-demand areas and its relatively high elevation above sea level. Due to the rising threat of overdevelopment and displacement, the neighborhood was designated on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2023.

Through the Breaking Barriers to Business partnership, TAC is working with Main Street America and Living Cities along with leadership within the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, to further address gaps in access to capital, shift private and public policies, and provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs. 

West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition| Charlotte, N.C.

The West Boulevard area in Charlotte has long been a home to many African American residents, and has experienced years of underinvestment. One of the organizations working to bolster community and economic development in the corridor is the West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition. The coalition runs a wide range of initiatives, including financial empowerment workshops, youth entrepreneurial programs, and the West Boulevard Merchants’ Association. 

The association was originally piloted in 2022, and the launch included 13 businesses. They expanded the boundaries to include the airport and hope to continue reaching new businesses owners. To support the merchants, West Boulevard has provided educational opportunities, grant opportunities, and networking opportunities. 

West Boulevard’s work with the merchants’ association and the business hub are both supported through the Where It Starts: Breaking Barriers to Business initiative.

The Partners

Living Cities has been a trusted partner for local government leaders for over a decade, providing technical support to cohorts of cities while simultaneously strengthening relationships with community organizations, entrepreneurs and fund managers of color, philanthropic institutions and research organizations. We are positioned to leverage these partnerships and our decades of work with cross-sector leaders, to co-develop and amplify solutions, both inside and outside government, for the systemic barriers facing business owners of color.
  • Track record of designing and implementing initiatives focused on learning what it takes to create better outcomes for entrepreneurs of color in U.S. cities
  • Expertise in operationalizing racial equity competencies and co-creating strategies with an array of cross-sector partners, including public servants, community organizations, philanthropic leaders and capital decision makers
  • Deep experience managing dynamic, multi-city cohorts and multi-day learning communities with the purpose of capturing knowledge and accelerating adoption
  • Capacity to consolidate and curate resulting learnings and collaborate with Truist to inform future interventions in local entrepreneurial ecosystems

Main Street America's vision is that everyone has access to an inclusive and resilient Main Street – a place that has a thriving local economy, is distinctive and rich in character, and features welcoming spaces and diverse businesses for residents and visitors alike. MSA seeks to tackle this work using their time-tested framework, the Main Street Approach, which builds the capacity of local place-based management organizations who have supported new and existing businesses and the entrepreneurs that run them. A robust local entrepreneurial ecosystem recognizes a location’s physical environment as a critical factor for ensuring small business success, particularly for entrepreneurs of color.
  • Specialized focus on supporting Main Street small businesses
  • Strong expertise in entrepreneurship and knowledge of small business needs and strategies in both urban and rural areas
  • Deep experience providing high-touch coaching to place-based organizations and strong commitment to working in communities over 2-5 years
  • Track record of conducting research on entrepreneurial ecosystems and partnering with the institutions like Brookings Institute to produce knowledge products like 2020’s report on downtown commercial corridor revitalization.