Beyond Tax Prep: Helping Small Businesses Survive and Succeed
H&R Block has a long history of supporting the unique needs of small business owners, but that help doesn’t stop with tax prep.
In December 2019, we announced our community impact program, Make Every Block Better, through which we are investing in programs nationwide to connect neighbors and support small business owners. We’re bringing this commitment to life through several programs that strengthen the spirit of entrepreneurship, with a goal of helping at least 500,000 small business owners by 2025.
“Small businesses are the heart of every community, so helping them succeed also helps build more vibrant communities and strengthens the backbone of the American economy,” said Jeff Jones, H&R Block President and CEO. “We didn’t want to just write a check, we wanted to do something to really help small business owners solve their toughest problems. And right now, those problems – and the need for help – is greater than ever before.”
A pioneering partnership with the Urban League
Research and history have shown that Black-owned businesses have faced greater challenges than their peers, especially when it comes to accessing traditional sources of financial capital. Unfortunately, these challenges have been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. Because every small business owner deserves equitable access to success – starting with access to money and connections – we’re piloting a program with the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, offering free financial management coaching to Black-owned businesses. The goal is to increase their financial confidence and help their owners gain access to capital through improved financial readiness.
If you’re a small business owner or nonprofit looking for information on how to bring this program to your community, reach out to H&R Block’s Make Every Block Better initiative.
From restaurant to shop owners and consultant firms, program participants like Ron Smith, Angelynn Howell, and Reggie Hines take part in a series of coaching sessions over several months. Specific financial coaching topics from both Block Advisors and the Urban League of Greater Kansas City include financial assessments, credit repair, capital source awareness, quarterly income and payments, underutilized tax deductions, business structure, marketing, and general readiness for capital.
Helping female entrepreneurs overcome unique challenges
To foster the spirit of entrepreneurship and build connections among female entrepreneurs, Block Advisors recently partnered with Selfmade, a 10-week virtual business course offered through Brit+Co, helping female founders create and grow their businesses. Through our partnership, we provided 200 scholarships for women (primarily women of color, and women from underserved and underrepresented communities) to take the course at no cost.
We’re following several Block Advisors scholars on their way toward continued business success, and we’re helping them with tax prep and other financial services so they not only survive their first year, but also thrive into the future. Because while female-owned businesses are on the rise (currently 31% of all small business or franchise owners are women, up 27% from 2019), gender norms are still affecting the ecosystem of entrepreneurship and creating unique challenges for women. This often includes less access to financial capital, a lack of support and fewer business contacts, otherwise known as “social capital.”
Block Advisors scholars like Stephanie Smith, Kathy Austin, and Teia Collier all understand the value of social capital as they build their businesses. Taking the Selfmade course not only armed them with fundamental business skills, but also gave them access to vital social capital and networking through powerful role models, mentors, and peers who will continue to teach, support, and empower them on the road to success.
Read the stories of these and other female entrepreneurs overcoming major challenges as business owners by following our ongoing Female Founders Series on our Block Advisors Resource Center.
Investing in our hometown: the heart of the tech world
To incentivize innovation and prioritize small businesses in our hometown of Kansas City, we committed $2 million to the KCRise Fund II, a venture capital fund that invests in high-growth, early-stage tech businesses.
The Kansas City metropolitan area is at the heart of America’s tech scene. In fact, its recent explosive job growth landed it fifth place on CRBE’s Tech Talent list. From developing new innovations in healthcare technology to charting the course for more sustainable energy consumption, Kansas City’s tech startups are putting it on the map as more than just “the heart of America,” but the heart of the tech world.
H&R Block’s investment has helped fund 11 startups so far—ranging from a human resources platform for employees to access “care coaches” on-demand (Cariloop), to a government dispatching and workflow platform for local utilities (Daupler). Also, as college costs skyrocket and Gen Z’s interest in more affordable alternatives to the traditional four-year college degree has spiked, one investment went to Degree Insurance, a company that guarantees – for the first time ever – how much students at American universities will earn for the first five years after graduation.
H&R Block’s $2 million investment is just the beginning of what the company hopes to accomplish for Kansas City’s startup scene.
“My dream for this is that we’re helping stand for what small business owners are all about. One of the things I worry about is that too many people here think, ‘Haven’t we done enough already? Kansas City’s pretty good, isn’t it?’ But to be a place that’s great — that we all want to be a part of — you can never stop,” Jones told Startland News in 2019.
The same holds true for our commitment to helping all small businesses succeed. We continue to help them, through programs and partnerships like these, and more soon-to-be-announced programs providing meaningful, grassroots action. All of these efforts are aligned with our Make Every Block Better community impact platform and for more information, visit makeeveryblockbetter.com.
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