December 4, 2021
By: LaDerrius Williams, GSIC Social Impact Fellow
Women and diverse-led companies are reshaping the small business landscape. In the United States, 17 percent of Black women are in the process of starting a new business, according to recent research from Harvard Business Review. That statistic is compared to just 15 percent of white men and 10 percent of white women who are currently starting a business. Despite this, only three percent of Black women are running mature businesses. That significant drop-off speaks to the resource challenges Black women founders face in launching and maintaining successful companies.
These challenges have been compounded further for Black women-owned businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on women in the workforce and the industries where Black-women businesses typically thrive including retail, restaurants, etc.
Atlanta based entrepreneur Njeri Warfield is hoping to change the landscape for women and diverse-led companies while providing more opportunities in the commercial real estate industry. Her development firm SkyRise Property Group seeks to partner with nontraditional, diverse-led investors, public entities, and corporations on commercial development projects with a specific focus on reimagining land and industrial spaces throughout metro Atlanta. Warfield’s greater mission is to help Black women, and people of color, discover a path to financial wellness through commercial investment while simultaneously bringing amenities to historically under-resourced communities.
“There are so many of these underutilized spaces already in existence in communities that need more amenities and resources,” said Warfield. “SkyRise Property Group is committed to providing the destination for opportunity. With a keen eye for up-and-coming communities in the metro area, we develop commercial spaces designed to provide resources for working professionals across a host of business industries.”
One example of this mission in action is the Jonesboro Office Suites building, which Warfield developed and opened earlier this year to provide critical office space for entrepreneurs in the local area who needed to expand beyond the footprint of their home office, but were conscious about affordability. The 6,000 sq ft space offers a variety of suite options ranging from 128 – 1200 sq ft. Offices range in price from $425 – $1500.
“The business owners of the Jonesboro Office Suites are entrepreneurs who have been working hard to get their companies off the ground and are at an inflection point in their growth,” said Warfield. “They represent a range of industries from insurance to mental health services, to media companies and more. Nearly 80 percent of the companies located here are Black women-owned or diverse-led.”
SkyRise aims to remove barriers for first-time and nontraditional investors to the commercial real estate industry through several key steps:
- Each relationship is developed individually and each investor is walked through a presentation to explain the investment process and what types of investments SkyRise focuses on.
- To get prepared for their first project, SkyRise holds several one-on-one meetings with potential investors to walk them through the investment process, project types, partnership opportunities (minimum investments, maximum investments and legal representations), financial structures and potential returns.
- When a project is identified, each investor attends an informational webinar about the project, how the asset will be purchased, how the project is positioned in the market to be profitable, and what types of investors the deal can allow. The informational session also includes anticipated returns through the life of the project (typically 3-5 years). If the investor chooses to move forward with the project, then are invited to subscribe to the investment and are connected to SkyRise’s legal team to confirm their eligibility.
- SkyRise makes a concerted effort to understand each person’s investment goals, timelines, and sources for funding. Not all projects will lend themselves to lower initial investments, so SkyRise makes sure each investor understands their legal investment limits and the certification process.
Along with these efforts, Warfield and SkyRise Property Group plan to create more workspaces in addition to the Jonesboro Office Suites, including a business incubator to serve as an education and networking resource for the local community. The business incubator would provide entrepreneurs with a series of year-long training courses and mentorship on the full business cycle — from “How to incorporate an entity and create a marketing plan” to “Developing an exit strategy (i.e. selling the business or a succession plan).” SkyRise would partner with the local government for the business incubator to create a pipeline with local high schools and colleges to provide similar training to students to bolster entrepreneurship and small business development in the local economy.
This facility will also serve as a networking hub for new and growing businesses. Both tenants of the space and interested business owners will be able to participate in the incubator programs and have the opportunity to attend networking events held inside the facility hosted by business entities and associations.
To connect with the SkyRise team or for further information, please email [email protected].