Recent events involving the African-American community are alarming and distressing. But the resulting call within the community to support Black-owned companies may have the potential to be game-changing for some small businesses.
“Although many recent events have been unfortunate, the Black community has awakened to the fact that they can create opportunities and use resources within their own communities,” says Phillip Dunn, a BOB (Black-Owned Business) advocate and CEO of A Seat At The Table, a company that seeks to generate more business for BOBs. “We’ve recently seen a reconnection of sorts within the culture [that's] bringing Black Americans closer together,” says Dunn. “The ongoing events have forced the community to look inward for solutions.”
The African-American community has definitely been shocked into action, adds Shekira Dennis, civic leader and co-founder of the Houston Justice Coalition. “The economic driver is to ensure that we are supporting Black-owned and -operated businesses by recirculating our dollars in the African-American business community.”
Money Makes a Statement
Misty Starks, CEO of Misty Blue Media, a public relations and content creation company, agrees. “Many Black Americans feel that if we can’t get justice and equality in our neighborhoods, schools, at work and in the court system, we’ll use the one thing we know will get attention and spark change, and that’s historically been money. We can chant, we can march and we can create catchy hashtags on social media, but it all falls on deaf ears until money is involved. This movement to patronize Black businesses is definitely offering smaller, unknown businesses a lot more visibility and opportunity.”
As a result of the movement, some consumers are taking the time to actually research African-American businesses and patronize them, adds Dennis. “This will benefit small businesses and bring some long overdue exposure to their community.”
—Phillip Dunn, CEO, A Seat at the Table
As Black consumers use word-of-mouth tactics to bring visibility to BOBs, newer small businesses may benefit from the call to "buy Black" by being able to start off with a sufficient customer base from within their community, adds Dunn. “In addition to an increase in revenues and income for BOBs, the migration will provide them with opportunities for growth, such as hiring more staff, which drives down the unemployment rate, and expansion into new markets.”
Historically, Black-owned businesses have tried to market to the Black community. But many BOBs have faced a lack of consistent support and acknowledgement, believes Robert Van Arlen, an international speaker, trainer and coach. “Recently, the press has caused the Black community to galvanize and support. Black businesses that have always advertised and marketed towards the community are also finding it easier to retain existing consumers and gain new ones.”
Take Advantage of the Movement
In order to continue to ride the change in tide, Black business owners who act with a sense of urgency may be able to attract, secure and retain this new influx of customers, as well as existing ones, believes Dunn. “This will require a transformation in thought leadership, operating practices and historical beliefs about Black consumers, which could result in increased entrepreneurship in the Black community. As an increasing number of individuals become comfortable with the level of support from within the community, they will be more likely to risk starting and operating a business.”
When Black business owners do get an increase in business, Dunn advises being prepared. “If you own a small restaurant with 42 chairs operating near full capacity every day, you may not be readily able to effectively absorb a five to 15 percent increase in customers,” he says. “It’s important for BOBs to anticipate this recent upswing and staff accordingly. Otherwise, some new consumers may revert to prior spending behaviors and choices.”
Van Arlen suggests seizing the opportunity by developing marketing materials that engage the community, such as websites, flyers and radio ads. “It’s also a great time for Black-owned businesses to look for sources of capital if needed, because any expenditure in marketing has the opportunity to produce a greater ROI.”
Perhaps most importantly, if you’re going to succeed at increasing business, you may want to overcome your fear of failure, believes Alexander Joyce, president of ReJoyce Financial. “Be passionate about what you’re doing and what you stand for. If you are providing a service or adding value, execute with a purpose and never lose sight of your goal.”
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