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Harvard Business School Partners With Black-Owned Businesses

An aerial view of the Harvard Business School campus

Harvard Business School Partners With Black-Owned Businesses

A new b-school course is connecting MBAs with local Black-owned businesses.

Scaling Minority Businesses, a new field class at Harvard Business School, turns MBA students into strategic consultants, pairing them with Boston-area, Black-owned businesses according to an article by Shona Simkin on the HBS website. The goal, according to officials, is to make an impact in the fight for racial justice.

“I felt it was important that Harvard focus on how it could use its resources to engage with the Boston community in ways that would address the problems of racism and inequities,” Henry McGee, an HBS professor who serves as faculty co-advisor of the African American Student Union, says in the press release. “As a lot of businesses have made commitments to address these issues, it’s important that our educational institutions do as well.”

CATALYST FOR ACTIVISM

When news broke that George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police back in May, HBS professors Jeff Bussgang and McGee got together to brainstorm how they could put forth an effort to support racial equity in the HBS curriculum.

Bussgang says, ultimately, the value behind HBS is in its network – something that he feels could be extended to benefit the local Black businesses in Boston.

“The HBS value proposition to our students is heavily focused on the network, and that network has yielded great results for all three of us as alumni and faculty, but it’s one that obviously not everyone has access to,” Bussgang says in the press release. “To be able to bring that network to bear for Black owned businesses is pretty awesome. We hope that these businesses will benefit from this relationship not only over the course of this semester but also beyond, and that we can create some connectivity with the Harvard community in general and the HBS community in particular, to advance their knowledge, social capital, and eventually their access to financial capital.”

SCALING MINORITY BUSINESSES

Bussgang and McGee partnered with Archie Jones, another HBS professor with expertise in scaling businesses, to bring the effort to life.

“I immediately loved the idea,” Jones says. “I had invested much of my career in scaling businesses, so the opportunity to point that experience and expertise at communities of color and businesses within those underrepresented communities was the perfect use of the skill set I developed at HBS and honed afterwards. I also loved that it involved field work with students—I know how powerful that experience can be. It felt like we as a team could really deliver on the promises of the course.”

10 local Black-owned businesses in Boston were brought on board to partner with MBA students. The businesses include some of the largest minority-owned companies in the state of Massachusetts, spanning industries such as real estate and construction.

John Cruz III is president and CEO of Cruz Companies, a third-generation family business in the fields of construction, development, and management. He says his family is excited for the opportunity to partner with HBS experts.

“We’re at a pinnacle point in our companies, ready to market our firm for a lot of new growth, and therefore it was a natural fit,” Cruz III says. “We want to concentrate on our real estate management side, which is headed up by my son, Justin. I’m excited to be in the course not only for what we might learn, but to have some of the best thinkers and teachers out there critique us and help us move forward. I can’t wait to get in the trenches with the students, and to also have the students learn more and contribute to Black business success stories.”

Sources: HBS, The New York Times