Making NJ Business Opportunities More Inclusive: Our Conversation with IFEL CEO, Jill Johnson

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In this Episode: 

Jill Johnson is the Co-founder and CEO of the NJ-based Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL). They are an independent, not-for-profit organization that supports economic development through entrepreneurship. Kelly, Brian, and Jill discussed various ways to help women and minority-owned companies level the playing field on access to capital, government contracts, and other opportunities for business owners. Lots of takeaways!

Key Takeaways from Jill Johnson: 

  • Our focus is on changing the barriers that exist at a systemic level. We want to change perceptions, change mindsets, shift attitudes–and not of the entrepreneurs that we serve–but of the people who are in positions of power and authority, people who can open doors and how they perceive women of color entrepreneurs.
  • If people automatically assume that your business is riskier because of your gender or your race or ethnicity that’s a problem. 
  • When people think of helping and supporting women of color, they always mention “training.” What women of color entrepreneurs need is doors to be opened and access to capital. When businesses get access to capital, support in the other areas of need will follow.
  • IFEL focuses on the value of relationships. We use relationships to help business owners open doors to gain knowledge and information that will help them run better companies.