LaKendra McNair Empowers & Accelerates Minority and Women-Owned Businesses
We’re thrilled to officially launch our #BlackWomenSparkChange campaign with LaKendra McNair. LaKendra is a Vice President at M&T Bank who focuses on serving underrepresented business leaders and entrepreneurs in the greater D.C. area. Her “purpose-driven” approach defies traditional banking and lending, empowering women- and minority-owned organizations to achieve even more.
LaKendra McNair has spent 26 years in the banking industry, spanning retail banking, government banking and business banking. With vast experience in the banking industry, diversity and inclusion leadership, and extensive community involvement; now as Vice President and Minority Women Owned Business Banker at M&T Bank, she’s leveraging her expertise and insights to support under-resourced businesses in and around Washington, D.C.
“We’re a small group looking at disparities and advocating in these business communities,” LaKendra explains. “I focus on women-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses, economically underserved businesses, and diverse businesses overall. I work to be their voice—businesses that have diverse ownership may not be on a big bank’s radar.”
These businesses, she says, have tremendous passion and purpose but often don’t have the access to capital and resources to accelerate and scale. And, she notes, though our smaller businesses are the fabric of our culture of communities and local economy, they are often underserved and lack a true advocate in funding guidance and execution.
“You only know what you’re exposed to or what others are willing to share,” LaKendra says. “Many entrepreneurs are busy working in their business and expertise; this sometimes leaves gaps in building and sustaining a solid and diverse team of proactive trusted advisors.” That, then, leads many to deplete their personal savings or, absent of those funds, prevents them from starting or scaling. LaKendra, though, works to overcome this.
“It first starts with learning their journey and their vision,” she says. “I need to understand what’s important to them personally and in business to empower me to be their advocate, trust-advisor, sponsor, and connector to resources, information, networks that will partner to bring their goals to reality!”
This, LaKendra notes, isn’t the typical experience for this audience. “A lot of minority and women business owners don’t feel a sense of safety, comfort or even equitable treatment when it comes to lending and startup capital. They don’t feel like they have a relationship with their bank or someone to guide them.”
Beyond just supporting these diverse businesses and entrepreneurs, LaKendra gives back to the non-profit community in various capacities. She serves on the Board of Life Pieces to Masterpieces, an organization that helps prepare African American boys and young men to transform their lives and community through artistic expression. She also launched the HER Ecosystem, in D.C. Through this work, she brings together community partners in the District who empower the women-owned business ecosystem with resources, information, community, and shared experiences.
One of these women is the mother of an 11-year-old who was tragically struck and killed by a stray bullet on July 4th; working with LaKendra to launch a foundation and nonprofit in memory of her son to empower underserved and underrepresented youth and their families here in the District.
“It’s purpose-driven work,” LaKendra says. “When this mother called me, the first thing I said was, ‘do you mind if I pray with you? I can’t just be a banker. She’s a mother. I’m a mother. I can’t negate what she’s going through and just talk about products. And she doesn’t just need a banker—she needs someone who really cares about what’s going on with our children and our community right now. I have the resources, information, and network to help her create a legacy for her son and impact change; and that’s my why- this is purpose-driven work and how I create my legacy through what I do every day.”