August celebrates National Black Business Month and its importance and impact on the community. From humble beginnings in the 1960’s to the creation and founding of the month more than 40 years later, the need for Black Business Month remains. The vision to establish the month came from two men and their years of personal triumphs and trials coupled with the desire to uplift all Black business.
Frederick E. Jordan Sr. launched an engineering and construction management company in 1969. At a time when financial options for African American entrepreneurs were almost non-existent, the businessman worked to build his company, F.E. Jordan Associates Inc, part-time from home according to an article from Black Enterprise.
Hoping to urge support and shine a light on Black businesses, the construction mogul, who has now grown the California-based company to a national name, saw a need to establish the month. In August 2004, along with John William Templeton, founded National Black Business Month to “to drive the policy agenda affecting the 2.6 million African American businesses.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 18 percent of businesses in the country are minority owned. Despite the city’s predominantly Black makeup, the number of businesses owned and operated by African Americans is slight. Representing more than 14 percent of the nation’s population but two percent of the country’s employer-based businesses, the need for Black Business Month is essential for these companies.
Businesses, large and small, were put to the test in 2020. Not all businesses were able to survive, but of the businesses whose doors have remained open, the challenge was made worse by an unseen enemy. The coronavirus pandemic forced many small businesses to redirect and restructure their plan to accommodate for the changing financial tide. While all small businesses faced peril, Black-owned businesses were hit especially hard.
In Detroit, more than 400 Black-owned businesses decorate its streets. Viewed as the economic backbone of the neighborhood, Black businesses serve a larger purpose in the nation’s financial makeup. Employing almost one million people nationwide, Black businesses account for roughly $150 billion dollars in annual gross income.
“Black businesses in the city of Detroit are an employment block, they are hiring Detroiters. Not only that, they are really contributing to the neighborhood and communities where they exist,” says Charity Dean, President and CEO of the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance.
Despite Detroit’s rich entrepreneurial spirit, Black owners are sometimes shut out of the dream. Discouraged by barriers in access to capital, lack of exposure and other factors mounted against Black entrepreneurs, starting a business can be a daunting task. Stemming from generations-long practices of keeping Black communities financially flustered, rules and regulations have been in play that make acquiring and keeping Black businesses hard.
“We live in a country where we have systemic and structural racism that continue to impact Black businesses even up until this day,” says Dean. “Black businesses struggle with access to capital. There is no shortage of money, but there is a shortage of access for Black-owned businesses.”
During federal economic bailouts, like the Paycheck Protection Program, Black businesses were at a disadvantage. Originally structured to provide aid to employer-based firms, Black businesses were essentially eliminated as 95 percent of Black-owned businesses have no employees.
“Black businesses, especially in Detroit, but really around the country are owed a great deal. Not only from our government and our institutions, but really from everyone that has benefited from the structures of systemic and structural racism,” says Dean.
To help combat these issues and more, organizations like the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance help to bridge the gap and create an equal playing field for Black entrepreneurs. Though founded almost 20 years ago, continuing to spread awareness about Black Business Month and how to celebrate it will help support old and new businesses and grow their audience.
Though Black business as a whole is often put to the test, building a brand in the case of Black women is especially difficult. With existing barriers, gender is another layer for which Black entrepreneurialism is affected.
“The biggest barrier for Black entrepreneurs is funding, especially for Black women. Black women are the largest demographic to start businesses, yet we’re the least funded. Additionally, Black women businesses make only $24,000 in annual revenue compared to the national average of $46,000,” says Autumn Kyles, founder of Proxie, a Detroit-based company that assists Black women-led businesses in startup. “In order to sustain Black businesses, we have to ensure they receive the capital they need to scale and thrive.”
Etched with Detroit resilience, Black-owned businesses throughout the city continue to fight. With Black Business Month, the push to support these businesses grows not just for one month, but days to come. Owners and advocates are hoping supporters will patronize Black businesses beyond its designated month.
“I’m glad that we have a month where they want to celebrate Black business, but for me it should be celebrated every month,” says Jennyfer Crawford, founder of Ask Jennyfer and a small business advocate. “Just like there is a Black History Month, there is a month dedicated to us when we should be celebrated all the time.
“I think it gives us an opportunity to also see Black businesses that are not showcased. I feel like in this particular month, because it’s Black Business Month people really want to support during this month,” says Crawford. “It is a plus to it being Black Business Month.”
Steadily growing, Black businesses are determined to take their rightful place in commerce. As August ushers in Black Business Month, remembering to continue to support African American owned- and led- businesses will make the difference for the community.