About The Tapestry Project

On June 19, 2018 AEO announced the launch of the Tapestry Project, an initiative that seeks to accentuate and accelerate Black business development so that existing businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs reach their full potential.

AEO’s report, The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America, paints a picture of the rich diversity of businesses that weave a tapestry of Black business ownership throughout the country. Moreover, the report makes a case for addressing the complex interplay among three acute challenges impeding Black business development: a massive wealth gap, credit gap, and a trust gap fueled through bias. In recent years there has been a resurgence, a proliferation of programs and activities to support Black business development. They generally focus on capital access and/or building the capacity of the business owner. These efforts are necessary but not sufficient on their own in addressing the exponential effects of the interplay among the wealth gap, credit gap, and trust gap. More intentional and innovative approaches are required in helping Black-owned businesses achieve to their full potential.

AEO believes that there is merit to having a platform for those projects, in order to accentuate and accelerate their impact and ongoing development. The Tapestry Project provides a supporting framework that serves two stakeholder groups: philanthropists/investors and practitioners. For philanthropists and investors, the Tapestry Project creates a marketplace of viable, fundable and investible projects by providing a clear view of the Black business landscape and the resource gaps that exist within it. For practitioners, the Tapestry Project gives access to an infrastructure of services within an innovation backbone, and contract funding for pilot demonstrations through an Action Lab that helps to create, test, and refine models to support Black business development. The Tapestry Project is a single initiative that spans a 3-year period.


Learn About the Tapestry Report

This groundbreaking report explores the diversity among Black business owners in the U.S. and illuminates key findings about the important role that Black-owned businesses have played in the U.S. economy, the barriers that thwart their potential, and the impact they could have on jobs and the economy given the right support. The report also offers new ideas about how to unleash their potential by addressing those barriers, namely, the intersection of the wealth, credit, and trust gaps.

Strategic Priorities


Provide additive value to the broad landscape of Black business development initiatives by increasing the visibility and understanding of their approaches, collecting and communicating their aggregate success and identifying new opportunities in markets, product innovation and resources.


Foster a vibrant, innovative collection of high quality collaborations that highlights black business development and helps to close the racial wealth gap.


Align AEO’s suite of resources, partnerships and infrastructure to support the acceleration of solutions that help Black-owned businesses to reach their full potential.

Tapestry Project Action Lab

The Action Lab was an open space for experimentation and innovation for solutions that addressed the interplay of the wealth, credit and trust gaps that prevent Black-owned businesses from reaching their potential. It provided monetary awards to collaborative projects, products, and services that worked directly with Black businesses to address the 3 gaps. The action lab strategy was implemented across multiple cities (not fewer than 5) through a competitive process resulting from a request for applications (RFA).

We were looking to support “ecosystem approaches” or collaborations where the Tapestry Project Award was additive to existing efforts already on the ground. Successful applicants were eligible for a Tapestry Project Award Package that included:


  • Contract dollar funding of up to $50,000  for new ecosystem pilot demonstrations
  • Capital products and trusted guidance resources that could be made available to Black business owners
  • Other offers and innovations from project partners and sponsors developed over the length of the project

Tapestry Project Innovation Registry (TPIR)

The Tapestry Project Innovation Registry is an online registry designed to help broaden the reach of each organization’s work to funders, investors and other potential collaborators. The Innovation Registry connects existing projects and innovations for Black business development with opportunities for funding and partnership.

By registering, practitioners were eligible to access the services below:

  • Storytelling – Opportunities to showcase individual projects/innovations as well as the collective story, which participants can leverage to advance their work and their message.
  • Matchmaking – Enabled participants to find, connect, and build relationships they may find beneficial.
  • Convening – The Tapestry Project served as a platform for convenings to allow participants to network, share information, engage in peer learning, and collaborate on policies and plans.

AEO searched broadly across the U.S. landscape for targets of opportunity – places where the Tapestry Project could help support innovation, and where we might be able to align our work with others, in order to accomplish greater impact in Black business development than any one organization could do alone.