On Wednesday, Feb. 1, the Fourth Annual Black-Owned Business Excellence Symposium will be held at the University of Washington Tacoma and online. The Seattle Public Library is a co-sponsor of the symposium.
Now a nonprofit, BOBE started as a collaboration of organizations and individuals to support, educate, inspire and elevate businesses that are owned by underserved business owners in Washington State.
As a Library community partner, BOBE members offer their business and finance expertise to the broader community through Library programs and elsewhere.
In honor of the symposium, we’d like to take you behind the scenes to meet one of BOBE’s leaders. Tierra Bonds, owner of Take Charge Credit Consulting and BOBE board member, has a passion for service, entrepreneurship and providing education that aligns with BOBE’s mission.
“BOBE’s purpose is very similar to the mission of my company, which is to provide necessary resources, support and education to underserved Black business owners and individuals in an effort to reduce the racial wealth gap,” says Tierra. “BOBE meets this mission with a focus on entrepreneurship and Take Charge does so with a focus on credit.”
In this Q&A, Tierra shares her connection to BOBE, the story behind her credit business and how she’s partnering with the Library to Business program to provide credit repair and education to the people who need it most.
You’ve been very involved with Black-Owned Business Excellence as a board member and member of the planning team. How did you get involved with BOBE and how does its mission connect to your business?
I attended BOBE’s Second Annual Symposium and was taken away with the support that was available for not only small businesses, but specifically Black-owned businesses. As a business owner, I had never felt that level of support elsewhere. I started attending BOBE meetings, thanks to an invite from The Seattle Public Library’s Jay Lyman [who manages the Library to Business program]. Shortly after, I was asked to become a board member.
BOBE’s purpose is very similar to mine, which is to provide necessary resources, support and education to underserved Black business owners. BOBE meets this mission with a focus on entrepreneurship and Take Charge does so with a focus on credit.
What are you most looking forward to in the annual BOBE symposium?
I am really looking forward to the educational workshops because I always learn valuable information that I can immediately implement into my business. This year, we added a focus on nonprofits based on feedback from the community and have three nonprofit management workshops, which I am looking forward to because starting a foundation is an idea of mine as a means to further provide credit repair to the underserved while eliminating the money barrier.
How did you start Take Charge Credit Consulting and why the focus on credit?
I started Take Charge Credit Consulting in 2017. Prior to that, I was working at the Department of Corrections and. I loved the work that I did but it felt limited in how much I could help people in the community. Because of the limitations with freedom, income, and ability to make a difference in the world, I became interested in starting a business and began researching different options. Credit consulting stood out as a feasible and much-needed service because I noticed that many of the existing credit companies came off as unethical and untrustworthy. It became my mission to be the credit resource for my community since credit wasn’t something that we were taught in school.
Black-Owned Business Excellence workshop
How has Take Charge evolved during that time?
Initially I started the business to help people in my network understand the credit process and repair their credit. I now have clients all over the U.S., although the majority are in Seattle and Tacoma. Recently, I began learning and understanding about systematic racism and racial disparities and how much of a role that credit plays in the racial wealth gap. To build wealth two common ways are entrepreneurship and home ownership. In both of those scenarios, credit is often necessary. Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by lower credit scores compared to other racial demographics and, as a result, have less access to the credit they need to achieve entrepreneurship and homeownership.
And when they do have access, they are paying much more. For a recent article I wrote for the South Seattle Emerald, I had reached out to industry experts to get a real-life example of how this credit gap plays a role when building wealth.
A Seattle mortgage lender ran two pricing scenarios for 30-year mortgages for a $625,000 home in south Seattle (the median home cost for the zip code at that time). A person with a credit score of 677 (the average credit score for Blacks) could secure a loan with an interest rate of 4.125% and a monthly payment of $2,877.61. A buyer with a credit score of 734 (the average credit score for whites) could get a loan with an interest rate of 3.5% and a monthly payment of $2,666.20. Calculating over the life of the loan, the Black family would pay an extra pay an additional $2,536.92 a year in interest or $76,107.60 over the life of the loan.
If that $2,536.92 a year is invested in an investment account over that same 30 years at a modest 1.5% interest rate, it turns into $110,000, further widening the racial wealth gap.
I now have a deeper mission for Take Charge Consulting. Credit is a tool that we can use to reduce the racial wealth gap and by providing credit repair and credit education to underserved communities we are making progress. In order to address the racial wealth gap, we have to address the racial credit gap.
You’ve used The Seattle Public Library’s business services. Can you tell us more about that?
I originally became connected with The Seattle Public Library’s Library to Business program after learning about the services from a colleague. I was in the process of expanding our collaborations with a focus on partnering with organizations to provide credit education and credit repair to underserved communities. I was able to use the Library’s market research services through one-on-one consults to identify which organizations would create beneficial partnerships. I was also able to benefit from the Library’s free one-on-one legal consults with UW Entrepreneurial Law Clinic to provide direction in new areas of my business.
You have partnered with the Library to teach credit workshops and offer one-on-one credit consults. You’ve also said that your own experiences with credit have made you more relatable to people you’ve worked with through the Library and clients.
I wish that I didn’t have experiences with bad credit because bad credit is expensive and I could be further in life without those challenges.
However, those experiences allowed me to really understand where my clients are and provide viable solutions for them. Being able to relate to my clients allows them to open up to me more, which is helpful so that we can get down to the root cause.
Why is credit so tough to talk about?
The stigma that comes with bad credit is something that I would like to change. There are so many different reasons for poor credit, like medical debt, a loss of a job, reduced income, lack of knowledge, and an event like 2020. It’s not fair for us to judge ourselves or others for bad credit. Instead we should be sharing resources and making a decision to take charge and do what we can to fix it. Our work can be that light at the end, guiding people out of their situation and helping release any shame, guilt or embarrassment around it.
The fourth annual Black-Owned Business Excellence (BOBE) Symposium will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Washington Tacoma’s William W. Philip Hall (1918 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) as well as online. Register on EventBrite; the virtual symposium is free of charge, while the in-person event has a fee of $15. Email L2B@spl.org for scholarship details. Find information and registration links at www.bobe-wa.org.
If you’re interested in Library business programs, check out the Library’s business calendar. Tierra is hoping to add new credit workshops and consults later in 2023.
You can connect with Tierra through Take Charge Credit Consulting, and with Black-Owned Business Excellence at www.bobe-wa.org.
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