A woman hangs an open sign outside a shop.

In Spring of 2021, the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) at the University of California, Berkeley, was awarded a grant of more than $333,000 from the Wells Fargo Foundation to launch a two-year Diversity and Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program. The new initiative expands Berkeley undergraduate research, advocacy and internship experiences that focus on how small businesses, especially those that are POC (People of Color)- and women-owned, are faring across California and what can be done to strengthen them. IGS’s Diversity and Entrepreneurship initiative brings resources and attention to the political and economic challenges faced by diverse entrepreneurs and the need to ensure an equitable recovery in the post-COVID-19 commercial landscape.

The Diversity and Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program includes hands-on research and summer internship experiences for Cal undergraduates focused on diverse entrepreneurship and small businesses, along with academic instruction in diversity, entrepreneurship, and California policy. Students receive training and mentorship provided by Berkeley graduate students and other experts in the field; and professional development in conducting and presenting original research by participating in a series of student research symposia. The goal of the program is to build a diverse cohort of future civic and political leaders who understand the challenges and opportunities facing women- and POC-owned small businesses and who are committed to promoting entrepreneurship in diverse communities through public policy, advocacy, and other forms of creative engagement.  

In the summer of 2021, our inaugural cohort of D&E Fellows conducted research on racial disparities in access to PPP loans, sustainability practices of small businesses, social equity programs for POC cannabis entrepreneurs, and much more. Students presented their research at IGS's October 2021 research symposium.

>> Click here to read the 2021 D&E Fellows' original research on eScholarship.

Nabil Aziz, Political Science, Class of 2021

Internship Office: Eleni Kounalakis, Lieutenant Governor of California

Research Topic: Oakland’s Cannabis Social Equity Program: Reversing The War on Drugs (op-ed)

As cannabis becomes more mainstream, the marijuana market could exceed the $70 billion market for U.S wine by 2030. However, many racial minorities are often unable to reap the benefits of this emerging, yet highly exclusive industry. By analyzing the City of Oakland's Cannabis Social Equity Program and conducting interviews with applicants of the program, this op-ed emphasizes the significant policy measures taken to ensure racial equity within the cannabis industry.

Layla Dargahi, Global Studies, Class of 2022

Internship Office: California Department of Food and Agriculture 

Research Topic: The Mountain of Waste: How Small Businesses Have Managed Food Packaging Practices During the COVID-19 Era (op-ed)

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many restaurants to struggle as dining-in no longer became an option, causing a reduction in customers. Restaurants were forced to quickly adjust, resulting in a huge increase in disposable packaging for meals as most meal options were only offered as takeout. The op-ed explores the various effects of increased packaging in BIPOC Oakland based restaurants as they navigate costs, government guidelines, and other challenges to stay afloat.

Pedro Adrian De Anda Plascencia, Political Science and English, Class of 2021

Internship Office: Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, MALDEF

Research Topic: Swap Meet Vendors: An Exploration of Neglected Voices (op-ed)

COVID-19 has without a doubt disproportionately impacted small businesses and businesses owned by members of marginalized communities; however, much of the literature that exists on this sector fails to account for the impact of the pandemic on swap meet vendors. Through first-hand interviews with seven Southern California swap meet vendors, this op-ed highlights the narratives and experiences of undocumented vendors, vendors of color, female vendors, and non-native English vendors to exemplify the drastic challenges that these people have overcome in the past year and continue to face in light of the gradual reopening of swap meets. At large, this research found that these individuals were some of the hardest hit economically, emotionally, and physically.

Michael Diaz, Sociology and Chicano Studies, Class of 2023

Internship Office: Office of Senator Monique Limon

Research Topic: Paycheck Protection Program: Unequal Loan Distribution and Increasing Racial Disparities (op-ed)

In 2020, Latinx-owned businesses had their PPP loans approved nearly half the rate of white-owned businesses, 10% compared to 17%. The food service industry remains one of the hardest hit sectors of the pandemic which has resulted in large decreases in revenue, reduced employee hours, and increased employee lay-offs.Through an analysis of PPP loan distribution by the Small Business Administration in California and interviews with Latinx restaurant owners, this op-ed highlights the barriers Latinx restaurants faced during the pandemic, applying to PPP loans, and receiving funding.

Kai Noah Serrano Eusebio, Political Science, Class of 2021

Internship Office: Office of Assemblymember Alex Lee

Research Topic: Against Hate and Hardship: How Asian American Small Businesses and Restaurants Have Survived the COVID-19 Pandemic (blog/Adobe Spark)

Multimedia: https://spark.adobe.com/page/aho1CkMu3tLWK/

Asian American small businesses have had to face both Anti-Asian hate/xenophobia as well as bear the dramatic slowdown in business within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, due to the high turnover rate that restaurants already face, as well as bans on inside dining, Asian American small business restaurants have seen drastic decreases in business they receive and struggle to survive as a result. Through interviews and research on Asian American small business restaurants and their communities, this vlog highlights the particular barriers these businesses attempt to overcome with the help of community organizations and non-profits.

Erin Hamill, Political Science, Class of 2023

Internship Office: Senator Mike McGuire

Research Topic: Were they Enough? Cal Relief Grants Battling Gendered Unemployment in the Pandemic (blog)

The Covid-19 pandemic, unlike past economic downturns, has had a disproportionate effect on women in both the employment and ownership sector. California has poured billions into the economic recovery of its businesses, but that still hasn't been enough to help all businesses, as many continued to suffer and face closures. This blogpost will highlight the ways the Cal relief grants continued to allow many businesses to slip through the cracks and the trickle down effect that had on female unemployment and business ownership during the pandemic.

Joshua Kay, Society & the Environment; Rhetoric, Class of 2023

Internship Office: Congresswoman Doris Matsui 

Research Topic: Contract Local! An examination of San Francisco's Local Business Enterprise Program (op-ed)

In 1996, Proposition 209 officially banned all consideration of race or gender in public college admission, employment and contracting. While a large amount of research and resources have been devoted to studying the impacts of university affirmative action, and its outcomes on underrepresented populations, little research has been done on the impact of the removal of race- and gender-conscious programs on these populations. Through a review of local business contract data, as well as interviews with business owners and procurement experts, this project will examine the current level of representation among local contractors, as well as the experience of San Francisco contractors, with hopes of identifying best practices and areas of improvement.

Nancy Kim, Economics and Media Studies, Class of 2023

Internship Office: California Department of Finance

Research Topic: Predatory Practices of Food Delivery Giants Against Minority-Owned Restaurants (op-ed)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, food delivery giants Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Postmates collectively raked in $5.5 billion in revenue from April to September of 2020. Meanwhile, restaurants are forced to pay exorbitant fees to use these apps. Through interviews with Black, Asian, and Latinx restaurant owners, this op-ed highlights the experiences and challenges that minority restaurant owners faced when forced to rely upon third-party delivery platforms.

Jimmy Nguyen, Political Science, Class of 2023

Internship Office: California Department of Education

Research Topic: COVID-19 Relief & Recovery: Vietnamese American Businesses in San Jose's Little Saigon (blog)

Limited business operations and low consumer activity have either forced Vietnamese American small businesses to close or leaving them hanging by a thread. A recent February 2021 article about San Jose’s largest Vietnamese mall and the surrounding Vietnamese business district shows the additional disadvantages and barriers these small businesses have encountered in the face of COVID-19, including but not limited to: language barriers, lack of monetary relief, and technological gaps. This research project examines what specific impact COVID-19 has had on these businesses, and the path to recovery.

Nyanga Nyandemoh, Social Welfare, Class of 2021

Internship Office: Federal Public Defenders 

Research Topic: Black Businesses Face the Brunt of the Coronavirus, but Where Is the Aid? (op-ed)

Black Owned businesses through the pandemic  faced hands on the foreclosures, the cut hours and as well the disproportionate distribution of aid . By reviewing Black population census data and PPP loan distribution in Los Angeles county/national this op-ed highlights the barriers Black businesses faced pre-pandemic and how they became exacerbated during this time because of structural inequities.

Tanvi Saran, Political Science, Media Studies, Class of 2022

Internship Office: Governor's Office of Planning and Research and the Strategic Growth Council 

Research Topic: BIPOC Small Businesses: Surviving and Sacrifice (op-ed)

The Covid-19 Pandemic revealed a subset of the American population that was particularly vulnerable to not only the health affects of the virus but also economic, social, and access. With an understanding of what these vulnerable populations look like, this op-ed explores how BIPOC small businesses are able to withstand the pandemic, and what factors they exhibit that allowed for their survival or what factors led to their closure.

Minh Anh Van, Interdisciplinary Studies Field, Class of 2023

Internship Office: Federal Defender's Office

Research Topic: Asian American Small Business Owners: Inequitable Access to Government COVID-19 Relief (op-ed)

Over the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic, many studies have raised the concern that minority-owned businesses have had a hard time accessing the relief offered from the government due to systemic barriers. However, what is not widely addressed is the comparison among small business owners within each minority group itself. Looking at the experiences of Asian American small business owners as a case study, this op-ed highlights the inequitable and flawed evaluation, operation, and distribution of the relief, even among people identified to be in the same minority group.

Leslie Vasquez, Political Science, Class of 2021

Internship Office: League of Women Voters of California

Research Topic: How Diversity Affects California Nonprofit Organizations (op-ed)

California is one of the most diverse states in the nation. According to the Public Policy Institute of California no race or ethnic group constitutes a majority of California’s population and almost 30% of the population are considered immigrants. With an increasingly diverse state, there is pressure to diversify the workplace particularly in the non-profit sector. Many advocates of educational equity believe non-profit organizations are stronger when directors closely reflect the people they are serving. To study the correlation between diversity and efficiency, this study focuses on the diversity of directors in educational non-profit organizations.

Victor Vasquez, Sociology, Class of 2021

Internship Office: CDFA CalCannabis, Department of Cannabis Control

Research Topic: Cannabis Social Equity: The Battle to Compete in a Competitive Marketplace (op-ed)

Senate Bill No. 1294 creates funding for a state and local cannabis social equity programs. By examining local policy, speaking to and listening to stakeholders I was able to to determine what makes running a cannabis business as qualifying social equity candidate. I was able to examine three localities Oakland, Humboldt County, and Coachella. With these examples we are about to begin to understand the bigger picture of being BIPOC in the CA Cannabis industry.

Allyson Velez, Public Health, Class of 2022

Internship Office: California Department of Public Health

Research Topic: Party Planning Businesses You Absolutely Need to Know About (blog)

As COVID-19 cases surged all throughout 2020, birthday parties, weddings, and celebrations of all sorts were cancelled. This is a study of how small businesses, owned and operated by Latinx women, within the event planning industry managed mental health challenges amidst the COVID-19 closures.