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Eugene Cornelius, Jr., Senior Advisor to the Office of International Trade

If you’re an aspiring or existing business owner with goods or services that can be offered outside the U.S., you may want to consider international trade as part of your long term plans. Eugene Cornelius, Jr., Senior Advisor to the Office of International Trade explains why.


What inspired you to create the Office of International Trade at the SBA? 

I see my position as a quintessential leader of the economic development. Therefore, I must take a strong stance on economic development issues for the future of U.S. small businesses. The U.S. represents only 5% of the world population. That means 95% of your potential customer base is outside the country.

Innovation is continuing to change the world economies at a faster pace than policy leaders can study and analyze. Small Businesses need to be in position to participant on a level playing field. The Office of International Trade prepare to assist in these efforts.

There are 1.8 Billion young people under the age of 35 worldwide all competing for jobs. The world will need 40 million new jobs each year for the next 15 years to keep up with demand.  There are some facts we should acknowledge: 97 to 98 % of most economies job creators are entrepreneurs and small businesses.

As a case study, in the United States, small businesses contributed 66% of new U.S. jobs created since the recession between 2000-2017.   According to the U.S. Black Chamber, African American Businesses grew from 1.9 million in 2012 to 2.6 million today, an increase of 700,000 or 27%. Small businesses created 8.4 million net new jobs and more than double the contribution of large businesses.

40% of those small Businesses were women and 70% of those women were women of color. Why is this important? Because we also know that people trend to hire people who look like, relate to, or are culturally familiar to them.

The U.S. population is over 325 million people. Nearly one- in -seven Americans identify themselves as Black or African American (or about 13% of the U.S. population). That’s over 42 million African Americans. Yet, the median income for African Americans is a merely $35,000. $24,000 less than White America.  There is a clear disconnect between the growth of Black Businesses and the growth of black income or net worth.  WE MUST DO BETTER.


What are some things entrepreneurs can do to prepare themselves for success in international trade?

DO YOUR HOME WORK! I can’t stress that enough. Seek out others who have been where you are going. Seek mentors and network. Contact your local SBA office and state economic development office and take advantage of these resources.

What do think needs to take place in order to achieve successful levels of economic development in the Black community.

Continual investment in, and improvement of the African American small business ecosystem to support sustainable, home-grown small businesses and provide resources for local talent, all while enabling growth and innovation through global connectivity. We know that entrepreneurs are the job creators. Therefore, we must truly connect with them and provide a small business “support system,” because small business is big business!

There are Two essential pillars WE must adopt as a key stakeholder to the African American community:

(1) WE must invest in African American and Minority owned banks

(2) We must change the mind set of doing business with African American businesses

Both have one thing in common and that is the circulation of Black dollars.

Number One. Access to capital is a global challenge for entrepreneurs and small Businesses.  The U.S. Small Business addresses this gap by offering loan programs specifically tailored for small businesses through a national distribution system of lending partners.

This framework enabled SBA to approve more than 68,000 loans in FY 2017 which totaled more than $30 billion to small businesses and supporting nearly 630,000 jobs.  Our loan guarantees fill gaps just to show you what is possible when government steps in to de-risk lending for our backbone of job creators.

The Bad news here is that less than 2% of those loans are with African American Banks. Over the last 20 years very few African American businesses have been able to gain access to the predominantly white private equity, angel investors, and venture capital communities. And of course, these investors have been the drivers of innovation and start-ups fueling our economy.

If small businesses are the job creators, and we are to move to secure the future of the next generation of young African Americans, we need to direct our resources to the number one issue for small businesses: namely the disproportional lack of access to capital to and for African American small businesses.

Investing our savings deposits in Black Banks is the first and a major step in the effort. An increase in their reserves makes more funds available to our community businesses. Keeping in mind that we must keep them accountable for the circulation of those dollars back in the form of investments and loans to small businesses the job creators in or entering our communities.

Which leads directly to number two. Changing the mindset of doing business with African American Business owners.    Whether we call it, “Programed Self Hate” or “Non-conscience Bias” or by some other name, it is preventing us from more fully sharing in the American Dream and from expanding African American economic growth and higher standards of living.

Just look at most every other ethnic minority community in the United States, such as Korean Americans or Cuban Americans, and how they have banded together to re-circulate their earnings and spending within their respective communities. As I mentioned, the number one issue is access to capital.  Many Asians Americans often don’t even use traditional banks and financial institutions.

Instead, they pool their money together and provide funds in the form of investment and/or short-term loans to their community when they come to the country to open a business and employ family and friends.  Have any of you gone into the black community and seen the take-out stores, laundry cleaners, liquor stores and in some cases even the soul food restaurants and who owes them? Need I say more?

Which foreign country do you feel is the most business friendly and why?

Most American small businesses prefer to do business with our neighbors Canada and Mexico.  Europe and countries with democratic governments tend to be safe bets.  However, with the internet, we see more and more companies dip their toes elsewhere. I would recommend looks at emerging markets. Countries that have growth in the middle class and disposal incomes. Eight of the top emerging markets are in Africa

What existing policies are most beneficial to business owners and what types don’t exist but should?

We know that entrepreneurs are the job creators. Therefore, it would be in the best interest in any economy to create a small business support system.

Serving under represented communities, minorities and women is essential. The SBA has four essential pillars that every support system such have:

  1. Capital Access
  2. Counseling and Training
  3. Contracting
  4. Policy and regulations 

There are trade agreements and the World Trade Organization policies to attempt to standardize international trade. However, not every country is a member or abides by the WTO standards. Entrepreneurs should become aware of the participation of the country or countries they are looking to do business with become engaging.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?


There is a wide range of support and information to assist entrepreneurs interring global markets, EX-Im Bank, the department of Commerce as well as SBA with its Export centers across the country can provide cost saving and risk reduction programs to assist small business enter markets and secure payment

Mr. Cornelius is the former Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of International Trade with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) responsible for administrating the oversight and execution of four program divisions:

(1) The Federal & State Trade Development Division — which focuses on delivery and management of grants program,

(2) The International Trade Finance Division — which provides Trade Financing, counseling, and training  with SBA’s 3 Loan programs via 21 Export Assistance Centers Nationwide,

(3) The International Affairs & Trade Policy Division — which focuses on  National initiatives, Trade policy mandates, export promotion interagency collaborative efforts, field network and outreach, and

(4) Administration & Operations with focus on Budget, Human Resources, and Management. Duties included development of international trade strategies and strategic plans, leadership of the OIT and other staff in formation and administration of policies and programs, technical direction and coordination of interagency activities with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Export Import Bank of the United States, the U.S. Department of State, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and other Federal, State, and local agencies.


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)


DMV Realtor, Eze Okwodu Wants You To Buy and Sell #TheEzeWay

As important as it is to recognize business owners and entrepreneurs, it is just as important to recognize the professionals and service providers who are excelling in their different fields of practice. Eze Okwodu is one such professional.
Eze is a Realtor at Exit Flagship, serving the Washington D.C. Metro Area. With over fifteen years of experience as a real estate investor, Eze is committed to helping his clients find their dream properties that not only meet their needs but are sound financial investments.

Eze Okwodu (Realtor) Washington D.C.)

Why did you decide to become a realtor?

I decided to become a Realtor because I felt it would give me the opportunity to buy larger buildings at a more affordable rate.

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I am #TheEzeWay

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In addition to being a realtor, you are also a real estate investor. How has that helped your career so far?

It has helped in several ways, for one I am already very familiar with the inner workings of the real estate industry. Since I am a landlord I can see things from the perspective of a client who wants to purchase an investment property. I can also understand the struggle that tenants go through trying to save money to make a purchase.

What do you do in your spare time?

In my Spare time, I enjoy reading fiction, hiking, long distance runs. I love trying out different vegan restaurants in the city.

You serve the DMV area. What changes are you noticing that market?

The prices of homes in DC are growing very very fast. My advice is to do everything you can to buy property in DC. Even if it’s a one bedroom shack, it would be wise to buy something based on where the predicted future appreciation of property in the city.

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Testimonials #TheEzeWay

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How has the pandemic affected your business?

With the majority of people now confined to their current living spaces and now also having more time to think about their comfort and future, coronavirus has actually increased business for me. I get a lot more inquiries about refinancing and wanting to buy larger homes.

In a way, it makes sense because social distancing has forced people to be more reflective about their home environment and how important it is to live in the best place possible, especially if you have to stay there nonstop for long periods of time, as is the case right now.

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I am #TheEzeWay

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What marketing strategies have you implemented recently?

I’ve increased my marketing by 50% and also started working closely with loan officers. I’ve also started using Zoom and other web-conferencing platforms to host financial literacy workshops that have been a real hit in the community.

These workshops give people an opportunity to continue to improve their potential to become new homeowners.

In addition to that, I share images and videos of some of my current property listings on social media platforms and set up one-one-one follow ups for those ready to buy.

You’d be surprised how many people are willing to buy new homes in this environment.

What advice do you have for those interested in becoming a real estate agent?

It’s not as simple as people make it sound. The best advice I can give is to come in ready to work harder than any job you’ve ever had.

Where do you see your practice in the next 5 years?

In 5 years I will own my own real estate brokerage.

Contact info:
EXIT Flagship Realty
1221 Caraway Court, Suite #1040
Upper Marlboro, MD 20774
Cell:  (301) 559 2872

Tony O. Lawson

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Featured Professional: Attorney, Marirose Roach

As important as it is to recognize business owners and entrepreneurs, it is just as important to recognize the professionals and service providers who are excelling in their different fields of practice. Marirose Roach is one such professional.
Marirose is a partner with Philadelphia based, Roach-Leite. She is passionate about fighting for the rights of spouses and children, providing legal representation in divorce, custody and support cases.

Marirose Roach – Attorney (Philadelphia)

Marirose Roach
Attorney Marirose Roach

Why did you decide to practice law?

My mom wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer.  I can’t stomach the sight of blood, so becoming an attorney was the default.  I was intrigued by the law from a young age.  I always wanted to help people and I felt that law would be an effective vehicle to do so.

What do you wish you had known about the legal profession before becoming an attorney?

They do not teach you how to become an attorney in law school.  Well, at least they didn’t when I was there.  There is a great deal of practical education that you do on the job.  Once out of law school, it is crucial to surround yourself with people that will make you great.

Your firm specializes in different types of law. Which do you enjoy the most and why?

It varies, each area has it’s pros and cons.  ​Each case is a window into a stranger’s life.  When you learn about their household, family, friends and struggles and can help them come out with a positive result, it feels absolutely amazing.  It’s a constant reminder of why I decided to practice law.

What do you do in your off time when you aren’t “lawyering”?

I’m a kid and an athlete at heart.  I still play in several recreational adult sport leagues.  It’s a great way to network and relieve stress.  When I’m not playing or working, I spend time with family and cook.

Where do you see your firm in the next 5 years?

We are currently going through a growth spurt at the firm.  ​In five years, if we continue this growth, I’d like to increase our support staff and strategize  marketing to refine the practice and be more efficient in how we target clients.

What advice do you have for students contemplating the legal profession?​

Get to know yourself and hone in on what you are truly passionate about.  Having a legal degree can create opportunities for change, but it’s a grind.  Be ready for a challenge.

Contact info:
Roach Leite LLC
6950 Castor Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19149
Telephone: (267) 343-5818

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (@thebusyafrican)