Ebony Ruffin owns a financial planning consultancy aimed at building wealth among Black families.
Ebony Ruffin’s social media feeds and email inbox started blowing up the moment the Goldman Sachs news broke. Word that the banking behemoth will commit $10B in direct capital investment and $100M in philanthropic giving to address the disproportionate racial and gender biases facing Black women stirred up emotion for the Atlanta financial planner.
“As I look at my newsfeeds, it makes me think, ‘Where could I be in life, where could my mom and my grandmother be if this initiative was taken years earlier?’ While I think it is a great move now, I wonder how much farther we could be in life and for the generations of women in my family, if the move was made sooner,” says Ruffin, whose company, Ruffin Consulting Services, specializes in advising Black families on life insurance and building wealth.
Closing the wealth gap among Black women is a major aim of the program, according to The Goldman Sachs Group (NYSE-GS). In the firm’s newly released Black Womenomics report, the median Black household owns nearly 90% less wealth than the median white household. The complex causes are rooted in systemic racism which for generations have denied Black Americans access to the prosperity-building power of home ownership, quality healthcare and education, equitable wages, and capital to start and grow their own businesses.
“I think this initiative really just brings to bear all of the historical lessons to learn and assets that Goldman Sachs has acquired to say, ‘We are making a big bet on who we believe to be the transformative leaders of this economy,” underlines Melissa Bradley, managing partner of 1863 Ventures and one of the advisory council members who will oversee the One Million Black Women initiative.
“This is an opportunity to say one million black women will literally change the tide for our country,” she says of the Wall Street giant’s plans to invest in housing, education, healthcare, digital connectivity, small business and entrepreneurship over the next decade.
Black Womenomics estimates that reducing the earnings gap for Black women has the potential to create 1.2 to 1.7 million U.S. jobs, and increase the annual U.S. GDP by $300 to 450 billion in current U.S. dollars.
Black female business owners will be a focus. A professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, Bradley underscores that Black women make up the fastest growing segment of US entrepreneurs. To that end, the initiative will build on the success of Goldman Sachs’s 10,000 Small Businesses, a program which offers entrepreneurs consulting and mentorship through local partnerships with community colleges, business leaders and a curriculum developed by Babson College. For Black-owned businesses hit especially hard by the economic downtown unleashed by the pandemic, the support has been a lifeline, says Letha Pugh, a 10,000 Small Businesses alumna and the owner of a gluten-free wholesale and retail baking company in Columbus, Ohio.
Letha Pugh and her wife and business partner Wendy Miller Pugh packing up their gluten-free Bake Me … [+]
When Covid-19 lockdowns forced Pugh’s Bake Me Happy cafe to close its doors last spring, she quickly pivoted her business model. Over a frantic weekend, she and her team raced to create an online pre-order system for their entire inventory.
“We were in survival mode, totally running on adrenaline,” recalls the former nurse who believes she would not have had the confidence to act so swiftly without the resourced offered by her Goldman Sachs small business cohort.
“They were constantly calling us and checking on us,” she recounts.
Later, with guidance from the program, Pugh successfully applied for a $48,000 federal loan that allowed her to purchase special freezers, merchandizing coolers and to invest in an electric upgrade so she could accommodate her new mode of commerce. She believes she was able to keep Bake Me Happy afloat because the 10,000 Small Businesses program forced her to become an expert in the back-end of the business before the pandemic struck. She learned to master the financials, zeroing in on her balance sheet and profit margins.
One year later, Pugh’s company has continued to flourish with 16 employees on the payroll and the opening of a new second location. The emotional and intellectual support she received was invaluable. And Pugh believes that Goldman Sachs can take it to the next level by infusing much needed capital into Black-owned businesses that have faced funding hurdles due to racial bias.
“Taking this pot of money and putting it right into new and existing local folks on the ground doing the work, this is how we begin to move the needle…They (Goldman Sachs) are falling right in line with how I believe we will bring some equity to a very inequitable history in this country,” Pugh explains.
Ruffin, the Atlanta financial advisor agrees, both as a business owner and as daughter of parents and grandparents who sacrificed so she could attend Auburn University debt-free.
“We (Black women) are leading the narrative when it comes to starting companies and as entrepreneurs. It is a big deal when you have additional capital to be able to hire additional employees and to grow an enterprise. That makes a difference,” she says, “What Goldman Sachs is doing will make a difference to Black families and Black women.”
Heather Cabot is the author of THE NEW CHARDONNAY: The Unlikely Story of How Marijuana Went Mainstream (Currency, August 2020). Praised by Katie Couric for its “deep