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Kean University

Kean Equity in Action Fellow to Research Black Entrepreneurs

Saran Nurse, Ph.D., a Black woman wearing a pink blouse, smiles.

Kean University Equity in Action Presidential Fellow Saran Nurse, Ph.D., has received a $399,050 grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to research the resilience of Black-owned businesses to external shocks.

Nurse, who teaches business ethics and entrepreneurship in Kean’s College of Business and Public Management (CBPM), will research the ability of the businesses to respond to four types of economic disruptions: natural disaster, COVID-19, civil unrest and gentrification.

“I’m hoping it will help us understand why Black-owned businesses are resilient and that this work could translate to policy recommendations for Black businesses,” Nurse said. 

Her research also ties in with Kean’s role as New Jersey’s urban research university. She said 2% of all businesses are Black-owned, and they are concentrated in urban settings.

“Kean University is taking the lead in researching the issues affecting our urban areas and proposing solutions to strengthen New Jersey’s cities,” said Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D. “Dr. Nurse’s study will help us better understand how Black-owned businesses fare in times of economic strife and what factors might influence their performance.”

Nurse’s interest in researching Black businesses’ resiliency began when she was both the owner of a pet grooming salon/spa in Brooklyn and a doctoral student at the New School.

“The major thing that impacted me was gentrification. I focused on my own experiences,” she said.

Starting in January, Nurse and her team will interview up to 65 Black business owners with a variety of backgrounds and businesses in New Jersey and elsewhere and look at structural barriers that restrict their access to resources. 

“I will try to figure out how to have a more just and equitable society, particularly for entrepreneurs who come from marginalized backgrounds,” Nurse said.

The research will span three years. In years two and three, the research team will develop a set of policy recommendations from the data collected and create a pilot project in two urban communities, including at least one in New Jersey.

Nurse, an immigrant from Guyana, is one of Kean’s Equity in Action fellows, a group of scholars who were selected to increase the diversity of Kean University’s faculty, and whose life experiences, research experiences, and employment backgrounds enhance the environment and learning opportunities for all Kean students.

“Dr. Nurse’s research speaks volumes about Kean’s commitment to intentionally address important issues in our society through faculty research, teaching and outreach,” said Jin Wang, Ph.D., CBPM dean. “It will yield significant benefits to the advancement of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.” 

Nurse said Black entrepreneurs are “under-researched and under-theorized.”

“In the past, some of the research on Black entrepreneurs has looked at what is the problem with Black entrepreneurs,” she said. “My approach is, what is the problem with the system within which Black entrepreneurs are operating.”