New initiative works for all Birmingham residents to Prosper

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Prosper works with Birmingham businesses to support the city's black community and women. Photo courtesy of Prosper Birmingham.
Prosper works with Birmingham businesses to support the city’s black community and women. Photo courtesy of Prosper Birmingham.

Birmingham is at a tipping point. Nationally, the Magic City has the worst racial disparities in business ownership rates, according to a Brookings Institute Study. Prosper, a coalition of civic, community and business leaders, is working to create an inclusive economy post-pandemic. Keep reading to find out how. 

Prosper works with Birmingham businesses to support the city's black community and women. Photo courtesy of Prosper Birmingham.
Prosper works with Birmingham businesses to kickstart black-owned businesses. Photo courtesy of Prosper Birmingham.

Fundamentally, Prosper works to support Birmingham’s black community and women. Rather than replacing existing initiatives and businesses, Prosper promotes inclusive collaboration. Furthermore, it uses a new funding model to align existing initiatives, launch new catalytic efforts and achieve civic change. 

“The path forward is to make a choice right now as a community to be as intentional about economic growth that is inclusive as we have been intentional in denying opportunities to so many. If we make that what Birmingham and the county is about, that’s how we will win. It’s not a zero sum game–everyone can win.”

JW Carpenter, President of Prosper

Today, Prosper carries out its mission through four key initiatives:

1. Birmingham Promise

Birmingham Promise provides college scholarships and career opportunities to Birmingham City Schools students. Photo courtesy of Prosper Birmingham.
Birmingham Promise provides college scholarships and career opportunities to Birmingham City Schools students. Photo courtesy of Prosper Birmingham.

Prosper supports Birmingham Promise, which provides Birmingham City Schools students with work-based learning experience and financial assistance for college and career training. Prosper has raised $8 million for Birmingham Promise so far. 

Jarvis Pruitt, a member of Promise’s inaugural class, attended Prosper’s launch on June 14th. Today, Pruitt is an honors engineering student at Alabama A & M. 

“Why not Birmingham? Why not Birmingham Promise and Prosper? I am a product of the Birmingham City School district. I am what any young adult can be if given the opportunity.”

Jarvis Pruitt

2. Black-owned business acceleration

Birmingham lacks black-owned businesses despite being a majority minority city. Photo courtesy of Prosper Birmingham.
Birmingham lacks black-owned businesses despite being a majority minority city. Photo courtesy of Prosper Birmingham.

Prosper connects black entrepreneurs with capital, coaching and connections. They are convening business leaders who can develop an inclusive growth strategy. 

Mike Kemp is a Prosper member and the owner of Kemp Management Solutions. As a black business owner, he feels that Prosper is necessary and effective. 

“We really believe that Prosper has the ability to move the needle. It’s going to take all of us working together. Prosper is well-positioned to bring the resources, people, teams, community to the table to have the conversations we really need to have.”

Mike Kemp, President of Kemp Management Solutions

3. Health tech industry cluster

Birmingham’s health industry is growing and influential. Prosper wants to utilize this in their model. Prosper collaborates with the health industry to solve community health challenges and export the solutions. They feel that the medical and technology industries can drive inclusive economic growth. 

4. Business advisory services

Finally, Prosper wants to grow Birmingham’s “missing middle,” or businesses with 10 to 30 employees. Prosper works with the Birmingham Business Alliance to build the networks and resources that drive an inclusive economy. 

J.W. Carpenter, the President of Prosper. Photo courtesy of Prosper Birmingham.
J.W. Carpenter, the President of Prosper. Photo courtesy of Prosper Birmingham.

“You can’t stand in this spot and not be excited about how much good is happening in this city and county. But, guys, we struggle with quality job growth. We struggle right now with the black owned business rate. We struggle right now with making sure all of our community is included. Part of loving Birmingham is accepting those facts.”

J.W. Carpenter, President of Prosper Birmingham

Contact Prosper

I’m so excited to see what Prosper can accomplish in the Birmingham community! Hopefully, the Magic City can become even more livable for all.

What do you the of the new Prosper Birmingham initiative? Tag @bhamnow and share your thoughts!

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Libby Foster
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