Cheryl Green never expected to become an entrepreneur. Green, an organizational-development executive, helped Fortune 500 companies adjust...

Share story

Cheryl Green never expected to become an entrepreneur. Green, an organizational-development executive, helped Fortune 500 companies adjust their corporate cultures and strategies to tackle challenges.

But about a dozen years ago, the African-American woman realized she was the one who had to make changes. That’s when, after asking her bosses why she was repeatedly passed over for a promotion for vice president, she was told she needed more education — even though she had a doctorate.

“Saying I need to go back to school was a pat answer,” Green, who is now in her 50s, says. “It was a polite way [for them to tell me], it’s not going to happen.”

Green decided she wasn’t going to stay in the corporate game. “Their ceiling for me was a lot lower than the one that I viewed for myself.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

Green spent a few more years at big companies picking up more marketable skills, then left. Five years ago, she opened Green Resource Group, a consulting company in Bethesda, Md., that advises major corporations on how to better promote diversity in their workplaces.

While many companies go out of their way to hire minorities, Green says people of color often aren’t included in informal communication channels or are simply overlooked, so they don’t always have the same opportunities for advancement as white employees.

“Executives see a shortage of talent, because they’re not finding people like themselves, people who look like them and who have had the same career paths or the same experiences,” she says.

If minorities don’t think their contributions are being adequately recognized, that may prod them to start their own businesses.

“If you’re an entrepreneur, then you can control your destiny,” says Green. “The money you make is the result of your efforts. You may be testing yourself and testing your limits, but you’re not having those limits imposed on you.”

At least one study suggests minorities are more likely to consider owning their own business than whites.

The 2002 study, “The Entrepreneur Next Door,” published by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, showed that African Americans were 50 percent more likely to try starting a business than whites.

Hispanic men were 20 percent more likely to try to start a business than white men. The percentage of Hispanic women is about the same as that for white women, but lower than that for black women.

In June, the Boston Consulting Group released a study, “The New Agenda for Minority Business Development,” which concluded that many minority-owned businesses don’t evolve into high-growth ventures, typically because their owners rely on personal debt and family loans rather than capital sources, such as banks and equity markets.

With government set-aside programs being cut back, the study suggested many ways to promote minority entrepreneurs, including encouraging corporations to place a greater emphasis on working with minority-owned businesses.

Green expects more minority entrepreneurs in the future.

“The Internet opened up opportunities where you don’t have [to have] a lot of money to build a brick-and-mortar business. And you don’t [necessarily display] race and gender online, so you have a much more level playing field.”