Black Business Month was launched in 2004 by John William Templeton, an accomplished historian and businessman, to help expand and support for Black-owned businesses. There are many ways to be a true ally for Black-owned businesses year-round.
As Black Business Month comes to a close, here's a reminder as to why you should be a true ally for founders all year long, and how you can support their success.
But first, a few facts:
- In 2019, only 2.3% of businesses with more than 1 employee are Black-owned, 10% if you include single-employee businesses, according to The Brookings Institution.
- Black-owned businesses receive less financial, government, and consumer support than white-owned businesses.
- What’s more, Oprah Daily reports that "the number of working African American business owners fell more than 40% amid the coronavirus pandemic—a much steeper drop than other racial groups experienced.”
- Finally, a little over 35% of Black-owned businesses are also women-owned, meaning Black women-owned businesses are even less represented.
Learn about the full story of successes, issues and challenges, then seek out businesses to support.
Start with being aware of the issues that Black women-owned businesses face. This Score's "State of Black-Owned Businesses" report has a nice concise summary. Once you know more about the successes, challenges and issues Black founders face, then you can commit to seeking out businesses to support or recommend to others for support.
The US Chamber of Commerce has a list of 15 directories to get you started. Check your local Chamber of Commerce, and if they don’t have a specific list, ask them to make one. Also use your networks, social feeds, Facebook groups, etc. to specifically seek out Black-owned business referrals. When you are aware of what is available, it makes supporting these businesses easy.
Consistently share authentic stories about how and why you support specific brands.
Sydney Bassard, a speech pathologist for kids that are hard of hearing or dyslexia, and the founder of Black-owned brand The Listening SLP says that Google, Yelp, and other platforms, along with personal referrals from colleagues and patients, drive new business for her.
Kelsey Steele, founder of Dandelion Fields Co, a Black-owned line of children's headbands and bows that are inclusive of babies in the NICU and other health-compromised children adds that people sharing insights on what they genuinely love about her product, her story about her NICU experience, and reviews about her brand is key to her business growth.
Both Bassard and Steele note that genuine reviews and referrals from the families they serve help their business grow.
Support beyond buying and invest in engagement.
Chloe Burts, the founder of Cooper + Moon, a Black-owned brand that offers high-quality, handmade custom bracelets and necklaces recommends that you tell a friend that might be interested, post something you thought was nice, refer her business to others, and keep sharing and promoting small Black women-owned businesses, even if you aren’t actually purchasing a product.
Engaging with social media posts by liking, sharing, tagging people, or leaving a comment about what you like really drives traffic to her business. This is a sentiment strongly shared by Bassard and Steele as well. Even if certain products or services aren't for you, it might be great for someone you know.
Partner up and engage with them on business terms.
Local networking with other small, women-owned businesses has also been essential to all three entrepreneurs. Community and collaboration versus competition helps drive the growth of Black-owned businesses. For Bassard, networking with other businesses across ethnicities, cultures, and sectors has helped her grow her business. She strongly encourages other business owners to invite their peers into their networks for events, mentoring, and workshops. Burts says she has grown professionally a lot from a Shopify community of Black-owned businesses. Steele also loves doing collaborations with other businesses where they can pair their products in promotions and events.
Finally, if you have contacts at local publications, in the finance industries, or among sponsorship leads, think of what Black-owned businesses you can connect them with. Steele has been able to connect with a local news network and forge a partnership with Target which was huge for her brands expansion.
Of course, make sure your networking is authentic and based on building relationships for the long term.
Advocate for support and funding with your words, influence, and money.
A huge area challenge Black-owned businesses face is access to funding sources. Consider a few stats from NerdWallet:
- White business owners receive funding from banks at least 80.2% of the time, compared to 66.4% of the time for BIPOC-owned businesses.
- BIPOC businesses average interest rate is 7.8%, but for white-owned businesses, it is 6.4%.
- White-owned businesses average loan size is $30,000 higher than those for BIPOC-owned businesses.
Furthermore, Forbes shared a report that found that lenders were more likely to discourage Black business owners from even applying for a business loan.
What can you do? Support organizations that support better funding access for Black-owned businesses. Here are a few to get you started.
Finally, check out this resource for a list of even more.
Value the talent and expertise at small Black-owned brands and businesses.
Just because it's a small businesses, doesn’t mean it's less valuable than larger well-known businesses. Small business owners pour their heart, soul, expertise, quality, and care into their business.
Bassard says that 92% of practitioners in her industry are white women, and though she does extensive networking and is in many Facebook groups, she has to spend more time assuring people about her credentials. As a consumer and supporter, work toward fighting against this by encouraging balanced views about Black-owned businesses in reference to quality of services, products and experiences and acknowleging hard work, credentials, training and experience.
What one or two things will you commit to doing for the next year to support Black-owned businesses in your community? To start with, please follow and support the Black women-owned businesses that contributed to this article.