The narrative is essentially an essay a business owner writes to describe his/her disadvantaged status when it is required by the SBA for the 8(a) disadvantaged small business certification. In the last post, What’s disadvantaged?, we explored how physical challenges and educational experience might be described in the narrative. These are not the only categories to consider.

Another area to think about is your employment history. For example, could there have been cultural bias if you experienced:

  • Significant variation in compensation and/or fringe benefits from those of equally qualified contemporaries;
  • Denial of increases, bonuses or commissions for reasons that were different than those required of other individuals of equivalent qualifications; or
  • Were terminated for reasons that were different than those applied to other individuals of equivalent qualifications.

Once again, I can only speak from personal experience, but there may be something wrong if you are asked to train the boss’s relative when that relative brags about a new salary significantly larger than yours … especially if you and the relative have similar educational and employment experience. You can learn more about basic employee rights HERE. They say the “… word discrimination suggests unequal treatment. When employees are not being dealt with the same as co-workers it could be workplace discrimination owing to age, disability, race, religion, gender, etc.”. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has many reports and articles about workplace discrimination.

Another thing to consider is “access to capital”; an ubiquitous phrase encountered at virtually every small business seminar or networking session. What it boils down to is can the entrepreneur get the money s/he needs to start, run or expand the business enterprise? Historically, small business financing has been problematic. The U.S. Commerce Minority Business Development agency indicates that access to capital is as much an issue today as it was in 1969. They report that “both national and regional studies over several decades and found that limited financial, human, and social capital, as well as racial discrimination, were primarily responsible for the disparities between non-minority and minority businesses”. Dr. Fairlie testified before the U.S. Senate about difficulties minority entrepreneurs face in obtaining financing. The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) reports that “Women business owners still face greater obstacles in obtaining financing for their businesses than similarly situated men do. In addition, access to capital by women business owners is not commensurate with their business growth.” Your narrative should detail any bias you’ve encountered in seeking financing.

So what about statistics or demographics? The U.S. Census Bureau has a number of business and industry reports, and general demographic information that may be helpful in preparing a narrative. For example, the MWBE (minority women business enterprise) owner of a Wyoming-based business discovers that the state’s population is 90.7% non-minority, and of the 61,179 businesses in the state only 15,608 are women-owned … and only 323 of these are minority women owned. It might be possible to cite this disparity in MWBE ownership as a barrier encountered when developing a new MWBE business in Worland, WY. When writing my 1994 narrative I discovered that “women represent less that 25% of all computer programmers or software engineers and only 21.7% of chief executives”. Fast forward to 2007 to discover that women own less that 5% of information technology firms. Culturally, it would seem that a WBE-owned IT firm might have bigger hurdles to overcome than its masculine counterparts.

Each narrative is unique, distinct to the individual’s life and business experiences. Again, ask yourself: What’s my story?