Pete Buttigieg has a plan to encourage Black entrepreneurship and he's named it after two of the most recognized self-made business owners, Madam C.J. Walker and Reginald F. Lewis. The 2020 hopeful unveiled his proposal on Sunday during an address at the 2019 Essence Festival.
"Let's talk about economic empowerment," Buttigieg said to the thousands gathered in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and streaming live on Facebook. "Women of color account for nearly half of all women-owned businesses — $386 billion dollars of annual revenue. Which means that we should continue lifting up women of color and Black-owned enterprises not just with our words, but with our dollars."
In a private interview with ESSENCE, the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana, compared the Walker-Lewis plan to the Marshall plan that was put into action after the end of World War II and explained that it would close the economic wealth gap. Essentially that plan would allow those who qualified for Pell Grants an opportunity to have their student loan payments forgiven if they start a business and employ three people within five years.
Buttigieg projects that the financial incentive will help triple the number of entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds in 10 years. "We can do that, and we should," he insisted. He also called for creating a $10 billion fund to invest in businesses that are started by minorities.
"This is what freedom looks like in the 21st Century," Buttigieg said.
His plan comes on the heels of another economic initiative named after an African-American figurehead. In June the former military officer outlined his Douglass plan named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass. In an op-ed published ahead of his appearance at BET's Black Economic Alliance, he said, "We want to increase the number of successful small businesses in Black communities by 50%, by reforming credit scoring, increasing access to credit, and supporting long-term growth."