(NewsNation) — Many in the United States share the American Dream: work hard, retire and leave a legacy of generational wealth. But for many Americans, that dream is still unattainable.
One of the largest roadblocks to wealth building is lack of access — and this hits marginalized communities the hardest.
Joe Cecala, founder and CEO of Dream Exchange, and his business partner Dwain J. Kyles wanted to change that, so they started the first Black-owned stock exchange. A stock exchange, according to Investopedia, is where financial instruments are traded, as well as where stock buyers connect with sellers.
“We help to form capital, we help people reach the public markets,” Cecala said on “NewsNation Live” Monday. “We also regulate how the buying and the selling of stocks is done every day.”
Dream Exchange began after Cecala and Kyles saw a lot of the problems smaller, minority-owned businesses were having.
“It’s a very difficult environment to raise capital if you’re a small business, let alone a small, minority-owned business,” Cecala told NewsNation’s Nichole Berlie.
A Federal Reserve survey showed that in 2022, about 40% of Black households, and 28.3% of Hispanic ones, had investments in stocks, compared to 65.6% of white households.
“We didn’t have a grandfather or aunt or uncle or mom and dad educating us on the markets because they didn’t benefit from it because of historical discrimination in this country,” said John Rogers, founder and co-CEO of Ariel Investments, in a 2020 Associated Press article.
Black borrowers historically had restricted access to mortgages and affordable housing because of decades of redlining and other discriminatory practices, Raphael Bostic, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta said in the article.
Less opportunity to build up wealth meant to a lower income, and less money to invest after paying bills.
But experts say having more investment by racial minorities in the stock market can help narrow this wealth gap.
Cecala says about 75-80% of people in Dream Exchange’s base are accredited Black investors, and it has a growing board of Black business people.
“We’re truly a diversely staffed company,” Cecala said. “It’s a seat at the table.”
That being said, Dream Exchange’s services are open to anybody, regardless of race.
“If you’re a small company owner, and you have a great idea, you have to really have a great Rolodex of investors, or you really have to organically grow and be so profitable right away that you can’t expand,” Cecala said. “That is a colorblind problem in our nation. It happens to be a bit more pronounced in the minority communities.”
So, Cecala said, Dream Exchange is here for everyone.
“If you have a good idea, you have an imaginative company and you’re doing well, we want to help you form the capital you need to expand your business and reach the public,” Cecala said. “We want to bring prosperity to all communities in the country, so that we have a more stable society.”