If you’ve ever been anxious about starting your own business, experienced frustration of limited opportunities or face the realities of being a minority in business, there may be a solution. Capalino+Company, a strategic relations firm, just launched an app to help minorities and women find business contracting opportunities within the state and city of New York. Tunisha Walker and Safeena Mecklai, the two women of color who created the app, believe it’s as simple as online dating, except this time, you get to see how much money is in your potential date’s pocket.
Designed to connect entrepreneurs with the right opportunities based on their skill set, the MWBE Connect app mainly targets women and minorities that are part of the Minorities and Women Business Enterprises (MWBE). But don’t worry, non-members can still utilize the app's search tools. Not only is it creating space for entrepreneurs to thrive in the state of New York, but, in one mobile friendly tool, eliminates some of the hustle done to create those business opportunities.
While demographics such as black women are the most educated and fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, many of them may not be seeing all of the fruits of that labor. Even with networks designed to help underrepresented minorities succeed, Walker shared that in New York, only 4.8 percent of MWBE earned money from the city or state. That’s only 4.8 percent of New York’s $15.6 billion dollars in goods and services!
“The way the city and state talk about what they want to buy isn’t always what they need,” said Walker about the biggest issue the app tackles. Both shared that sometimes entrepreneurs find contracts that advertise for a skill set, but don’t have the right language or can be as lengthy as 100–200 pages. Sometimes searching for the right proposal can become an arduous and expensive task to grow a healthy business.
With many other examples of entrepreneurs not knowing where or how to find the right opportunity, Mecklai and Walker are solving for x. Mecklai described the app as, “leveraging tools to bring underrepresented communities to the table.” The app solves this problem by taking the call outs, postings and RFPs (request for proposals) from other portals that can be confusing, and brings them into one space. When you create your profile, RFPs that have matching tags immediately connects users with opportunities that match what they do.
Mecklai said with a bit of a laugh, that their biggest challenge developing the app was the same issue many underrepresented entrepreneurs face: technology. “We are not app developers. We know the issue really well, but translating it to what tech would look like is really tough,” she said. With a little “hustle,” as Mecklai called it, entrepreneurs can also face this issue of accessible technology by just downloading the app and testing their 2-week free trial.
As an added bonus, the app offers one-on-one guidance with Mecklai or Walker, and alerts of upcoming events for people affiliated with MWBE. In the future, there will be a desktop version and a tracking feature that allows you to stay updated on the progress of RFPs of interest, and receive alerts about upcoming deadlines.
With just 200 users and 325 downloads, it’s a secret that more young, black entrepreneurs shouldn’t keep to themselves. Most importantly, the app is empowering members of MWBE, and the like, to continue a tradition of “lifting as we climb.” Safeena Mecklai shared that this is the essence of why the app is important. She said, “What we hope to accomplish is to close the gap between goals and city/state procurement. The work we do every day is for minorities and women so that they can win contracts and bring that success back to their communities.”