How to Support Black-Owned Businesses

November 30, 2020

Black and native-owned businesses have the ability to thrive or fail based on consumer’s purchasing decisions, investor’s choices and strategic brand partnerships, big and small. Individually, and as a collective, we can make a difference in black and native-owned businesses around the globe. 2020 has been an impetus for change and has sparked a new […]

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Black and native-owned businesses have the ability to thrive or fail based on consumer’s purchasing decisions, investor’s choices and strategic brand partnerships, big and small. Individually, and as a collective, we can make a difference in black and native-owned businesses around the globe.

2020 has been an impetus for change and has sparked a new wave of civil rights protests demanding equal rights in and out of the workplace. These ongoing conversations are not only a plea for change in legislation and police reform, but also a plea to Americans and citizens of the world, especially non-black and non-native individuals, to listen, learn, and change their behavior and purchasing habits to create further financial, social, and educational equity for communities often deprived of resources and generational wealth.

“Anything you can buy, you can buy from a black-owned business.”
– Maggie Anderson

Before I dive into why there is grave disparity between black-owned businesses and non-black owned businesses, I want to provide a few primary resources of black-owned businesses you can support right away.

Businesses with Black, Native, and Immigrant Business Owners
(Sonoma & Napa County):

  1. Black, Native, POC, and POC-immigrant Owned Restaurants and Businesses in Sonoma County

This first resource is an accumulation of more than 246 restaurants and local services added of Sonoma County businesses along with the below resources.

  1. Black-Owned Businesses of Sonoma County
  2. Sonoma & Napa County – BIPOC Business Directory

Black-Owned Hair Care and Beauty Brands (Global and Domestic):

Looking to support Black-owned beauty brands? Start with the Black Hair Care Challenge site that lists Black-owned hair products and beauty salons throughout the U.S.

The All-Natural Marketplace by Black Artisans

BLK+GRN offers only non-toxic, cruelty-free, and hand-selected products owned and created by Black entrepreneurs. With products in so many diverse categories, there’s surely something for everyone here: : bath and body, skincare, beauty, grocery, hair, home, menstrual care, and baby products.

Get 10% off any purchase with my referral link here:

Marcus Books, Children's Books, Antiracism, Oakland

Black-Owned and Independent Bookstores:

You can support Black-owned and independent bookstores online and in-person, funding the incredible work of authors, librarians, and book store enthusiasts instead of lining the pockets of Amazon. Here is an incredible list of 125 Black-owned bookstores in North America from Oprah Magazine.

Marcus Books is the nation’s oldest Black-owned independent bookstores and it’s located in Oakland, California. With an incredible history and selection of books by diverse authors about diverse stories, you can check out Marcus Books on Bookshop here.

I also love this Chicago bookstore, Semicolon, the only black and woman-owned bookstore in Chicago by DL Mullen who has her PHD in literary theory.

Mullen says, “It means everything to me. To be able to create something that I love, as a black woman, that other black women and people can love just as much is a huge deal,” she says. “You don’t get into bookselling looking for money; it’s really hard to build up your career to actually open a bookstore. I feel grateful that I’ve been able to do that.”

This list is by no means an exhaustive accumulation of the thousands of black-owned and diverse businesses in the United States or the world. Now, it’s on you to look up and support the amazing local and global black-owned brands representing products and services you need and love near you.

Marcus Books, Antiracism Books, Oakland

Now, let’s dive into why there is grave disparity in African-American and Black-owned businesses vs. Asian, white, and even immigrant non-black-owned businesses.

We all know that starting, running, and maintaining a business is difficult–the odds of success and century-long legacy are not in our favor. One Forbes article written by inbound marketing guru Neil Patel estimates that up to 90% of startups fail.

Nonetheless, even with the odds against us, there is something about the tenacious American dream of starting a business that only seems to motivate business owners each year.

“Black owned businesses alone have created over one million jobs and generated over $165 billion in revenue.” – Dr. Tiffany Howard

With this said, why is the success rate of black-owned businesses even more threatened than white and other non-black owned businesses?

According to an incredible study titled “The State of Black Entrepreneurship in America: Evaluating the Relationship between Immigration and Minority Business Ownership” written by Senior Research Fellow Dr. Tiffany Howard, the success or failure of a black-owned business is greatly impacted by human, financial and social capital.

  • Human capital: Education, Work Experience, Supplemental Skills and Training, Legal Status
  • Financial capital: Startup Costs and Loans as well as Growth Capital
  • Social capital: Relational Networks and Economically Self-Sufficient Ethnic Enclaves

This incredibly insightful and interesting 74-page study, examines the impact of these three types of capital on black entrepreneurs in comparison to foreign-born minority entrepreneurs and looks at the comparison between African American entrepreneurs in comparison to African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants.

Here are some interesting takeaways: 

  • The historical lack of human rights, communal support, education, land, and the ability to work are all factors that have made it unjustly difficult for black businesses to be established, succeed, and expand.
  • Immigrants who go through naturalization, or go through a process of migration, are provided with resources that black individuals, who were not afforded a formal process of immigration, do not have foundational access to.
  • These differences in access do not determine the qualifications of a business owners, but do acknowledge the advantages and disadvantages that business owners face based on their ethnicity and immigration status, which ultimately contribute to their success or lack-thereof.

One interesting point that Dr. Howard notes is that some immigrant communities have a cultural and economic support system which has historically been stripped away from Black Americans.

“Despite contemporary trends and the current climate, African Americans have a long history of entrepreneurship. Within two decades of abolition, African Americans established several thousand successful businesses that thrived in exclusively African American communities. However, the escalation of racial tensions and Jim Crow laws made these businesses vulnerable to targeting and destruction. With few resources available to black business owners to rebuild if their businesses were targeted and destroyed, African American business ownership began to steadily decline beginning in the early 1940s. Black business ownership remained stagnant for several decades before resurging again in the early 1980s, and while growth has been slow, black business ownership has continued its upward trajectory ever since.”

The devastation of Black Wall Street in 1921 is a prime example of the success that Black business owners had established, only to be stripped away. The terroristic attack on Black Wall Street, devastated 35 city blocks of black-owned businesses. Over 9,000 people were displaced, hundreds killed and many arrested and even put in detention centers. The community was intentional and a powerful opportunity to establish black-owned businesses and generational wealth that could have had a lasting impact on families for centuries.

An incredible Instagram Live conversation between Economist and Author Maggie Anderson, JD and BLK+GRN , an all-natural black-owned marketplace, opened up my heart to the racial and economic divide in hair-care and beauty products and the history of colorism that has pressured black business owners to sell their companies, even at the height of their success, to non-black investors and companies.

Companies like Shea Moisture, Deva Curl, and Cantu, to name a few, line the shelves of beauty stores in the curly-hair or ethnic hair sections. However, as Maggie Anderson points out, these once black-owned and founded hair-care brands have all been sold or absorbed, passing the legacy of generational wealth that could have stayed within black lineage onto another huge corporation. In the case of Shea Moisture, acquired recently by Unilever in 2017, and founded officially in 1991 despite 4 generations of selling shea butter and African soap since 1912, the owner has issued a statement recognizing that while his net worth in Sundial products is at $850M, he feels poorly about his decision to sell, recognizing the significance that his brand held for his black community.

So, where do we go from here? We keep learning. We keep supporting small business and Black-owned businesses, Latinx, Native, Immigrant-owned businesses. And we create opportunities for Black and Native-owned business to succeed, to create generational wealth, and to be afforded access to the three areas of capital that are not easily attainable: financial, social, and human.

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