Tyrone Fenderson on Black History Month and How to Support Black Businesses
Mobile, AL Market Leader Tyrone Fenderson with Easy Heating & Cooling owner Enoch L. Smith
Tyrone Fenderson—Synovus’ Mobile, Alabama Market Leader—has worked in banking for over 30 years. Over that time, he’s done it all, from part-time teller to commercial credit analyst to management. He boomeranged back to Synovus nearly three years ago to help execute the region’s strategy and growth plan.
As a longtime banking veteran, he’s watched the financial services industry evolve in response to the ever-changing business landscape, especially as it pertains to black-owned businesses. From his vantage point, for black business owners to flourish, it all comes down to access to capital, and that’s where financial institutions can step in and make a difference.
“Access to capital is about having the financial resources to grow,” he says. “When you think about our country’s history and the role wealth has played in the growth of small businesses, you have to appreciate the significance of personal wealth as a principal source of capital.”
He points out that while many people have talent, that doesn’t always mean they understand the best financial steps to take, making having a supportive financial institution even more crucial. And while plenty of people can start businesses with money from their savings, minority businesses have historically had a challenge accessing the funds (debt or equity) needed to grow.
“If you don’t have the funds in your savings account or a wealthy relative, you have to go a bank, and historically that’s been a challenge for myriad reasons. There is still a capital gap,” he says. If a business doesn’t have critical access to capital, it begs the question of how these businesses can build despite the challenges created by limited financial resources.
Raising awareness of minority-owned businesses is one concrete way to help, as getting a business’ name out there is still an effective way to help them grow. Which is why Fenderson wanted to take this opportunity to raise up a black-owned business in his community, Easy Heating & Cooling.
Mobile-based Easy Heating & Cooling, Inc. is an award-winning business owned and operated by Enoch L. Smith. Mr. Smith understands that building a successful business is a daily grind and aims to be a hero for his clients every day, even wearing a signature cape to drive the point home. To illustrate his commitment to going above and beyond for his customers (and to show off his superior service skills), he responds to emergency calls on Easter Sunday. In the process, the company earned at least one customer for life.
“Now, that customer uses Easy Heating & Cooling for everything,” said Smith.
Of course, it’s not on individuals alone to help lift up these businesses. To Fenderson, large corporations, like banks, can also help by continuing to push supplier diversity.
He says that companies should continue to expand DEI initiatives in support of broader and more systemic economic goals that drive spending with Black-owned vendors, which ultimately contributes to their source of capital and helps those businesses grow. And while supporting Black-owned businesses during Black History Month is important, so is supporting them ever day of the year.
It all plays into his hope for the Black business community as a whole. “Business owners want a legitimate chance to win. These owners have developed a demand-rich product. They know and understand the need to build relationships and network for opportunity,” he says. “When it’s all said and done, they want access capital, they want to grow their business and they want to do these things in their own skin based on the quality and value of their product."