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First minority-owned stock exchange opening doors for Black business

Scripps News spoke to a founder who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and views this stock exchange as a modern-day civil rights movement.
First minority-owned stock exchange opening doors for Black business
Posted at 4:50 PM, Feb 18, 2024

What began as a friendship will now become history. 

Joe Cecala and Dwain J. Kyles have spent the last 20 years building what will soon be the very first minority-run stock exchange. The Dream Exchange is hoping to play a big role in leveling the wealth gap between Black and white Americans in the decades to come. 

“It's actually truly born from the soul of two people that want to see the world become a better place,” said Joe Cecala, the co-founder and CEO of the Dream Exchange. 

The Dream Exchange is launching this year to make the stock market more accessible to everyone in America. 

“Most people in all communities have access to Main Street in some form or another, but the gulf which exists between Main Street and Wall Street has continued to exist and we see that serving as that bridge as being vital to the revitalization of our economy,” said Dwain J. Kyles, the managing member at DX Capital Partners. 

The Dream Exchange will be the eighth licensed stock exchange in the country, but it will be the first minority-run stock exchange. It will function similar to exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange, where people can buy stock in companies that have gone public, but the companies on the Dream Exchange will be much smaller. 

The point is to make the stock market accessible to more people, specifically people of color who historically have less access to capital, and to give smaller companies the benefits and wealth of becoming publicly traded companies. 

“Our approach is to really look at those small companies that have been left behind,” said Kyles. 

Kyles said small and medium-sized companies run by entrepreneurs of color are more often the ones left behind. 

"Hopefully, ten years from now, when a small company is growing and it's doing well and they want to go to their next phase, their first thought is, ‘Oh, well, we can go to the Dream Exchange and get capital,’” said Cecala. 

Capital is one of the main barriers to success for all companies. Without it, a company cannot grow enough to get listed on a stock exchange, and this challenge is especially true for people of color. 

SEE MORE: A city with a civil rights history works to uplift Black businesses

The U.S. Treasury Department Task Force found that just 0.2% of companies on the New York Stock Exchange are minority-owned. 

The Dream Exchange’s mission is to upend that statistic and invest in companies from communities like the ones Cecala and Kyles grew up in. 

“If we can build these companies up and expand them, we'll have prosperous communities,” said Cecala. “I think that it has a ripple effect to solve so many of our nation's problems.” 

The biggest problem in our nation, as Kyles and Cecala see it, is unequal access to wealth. 

It was a lesson Kyles learned firsthand from iconic civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was dear friends with Kyles’ father—a fellow preacher in Memphis, Tennessee. 

“What he [Dr. King] began to understand in the later years of his life [is] that you were not going to achieve equality anywhere in this country or anyplace else if there is not economic parity,” said Kyles. “You've got to be able to give people the opportunity to earn a good living and take care of their families, or it's never going to work.” 

Kyles and Cecala believe economic parity can come when a company is listed on a stock exchange. The U.S. Treasury Department Task Force found that 92% of jobs within a company are created when a company goes public. 

“There's literally thousands of available jobs that are created when one company goes public, and if we put those companies into communities that are really not participating, we can build prosperity in the communities that really are most in need of it,” said Cecala. 

Kyles and Cecala are taking this dream one step further by working with Congress to pass the Main Street Growth Act, which would start ‘venture exchanges’ to get even more capital to smaller, growing, minority-owned companies and to help more Americans understand that the stock market is for everyone. 

“Even if you don't have stock, it matters. It matters. It matters relative to the quality of life you live in your community,” said Kyles. “The American economy has been the most robust and vital in the history of the world. We can do better. We can do better. We can lift more boats.” 

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