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Let’s Talk About Black Owned Businesses

As we get ready to celebrate Juneteenth next weekend, I wanted to shine a light on black business. According to Nerd Wallet, “there are more than 2 million Black-owned businesses in the United States [and] black-owned businesses generated $150.2 billion in gross revenue as recently as 2012.” That is A LOT of money, but what do we have to show for it? For many of us, all of the black owned businesses that we know of are mom and pops, local restaurants, and girls selling bundles and doing makeup, but none of those are raking in 6 figures most likely. We might know of a few influencers that have built a successful business from social media. Real estate has become more accessible, so I do know of a few people that are doing pretty well from that perspective, but for the most part, those billions of dollars are not reflected when you are looking at the black community as a whole. But why is that?

Black people have the hustle mentality. We’ll get it by any means necessary! But how many entrepreneurs do we know that have been able to take their business from serving a few to serving the masses? Not many. Many times, we are not able to put the system in place to be able to take our businesses from small to medium to large. Sometimes it’s resources because as we know, statistically speaking, people of color have a much harder time finding business funding than our white counterparts. We may not have access to generational money that can assist with a start up. Some of us may lack the knowledge to know how to grow a business and weren’t fortunate enough to have a family business passed down to us. While lack of resources may be an issue, many times we don’t know when to ask for more resources. That “hustle” mentality makes us think that if we work hard enough, we can do anything. We don’t need help. We don’t need to hire people to help us because “we got this.” Out of the 2 million black-owned businesses in this country, only 7% of them have 6 or more employees. That means that our businesses account for creating jobs for approximately 920,000 people. We are creating businesses, but not creating scalability because we don’t want to or don’t know how to hire people to help.

Another reason the black community struggles to find success in business is largely because of competition. Everyone is trying to beat the next person or trying to make money just for the sake of being “in my bag.” One thing that I’ve learned since starting my own business is that there is plenty of room at the table and there is so much experience out there. Most of what I know in business is from research (free), and experiences (also free). I know that sharing my knowledge for free doesn’t take away the fact that I’m good at what I do. I can tell you everything that I have learned about running a business, but you will never be able to do what I do, how I do it. As a community, we have to be confident in what makes us unique, and stop making everything a competition. You have a car, but when you’re driving, you don’t run everyone off of the road. You drive with them. Some people are in front of you or behind you in the same lane, but does that stop you from driving? Does that make you mad that everyone else is driving too? No. Because you worry about yourself and you drive your car and as long as God says so, you all get to your destinations successfully.

Not everything has to be a competition and by losing that mentality, many more of us could be successful in creating a business that is profitable and scalable. We all talk about “Generational Wealth” and “Building an empire” but more than 50% of businesses owned by us don’t even have employees. To build successful businesses we have to take a look at our practices. What do we need to improve upon to get better outcomes in our black owned businesses? We have to lose the competitive mentality, learn from each other and build teams that will help us take our businesses where we want them to go.

I am in the business of scaling and automating. I am always looking for ways to improve processes so that what works for one can work for one thousand or one million. When I’m evaluating a business, I’m looking at 4 main things:

  1. Are you easily identifiable?

  2. Are you professional?

  3. Are you organized?

  4. Are you offering a quality product or service?

Are you easily identifiable?

If I google or look your brand up on social media can I find it and can I tell what you are wanting me to buy? Most people stay on a website for less than 1 minute. You have less than 60 seconds to show someone who you are and peak their curiosity. I don’t want to go to your instagram and your name is Mz_Lipstick and then go to Facebook and your name is Lipstick Baddie and then I click on the link on your Facebook page and your header say “Lil Miss Lipstick.” While I can figure out that you are probably trying to promote a lipstick business, you don’t have a strong brand. I don’t know what your business name is. Everywhere I see you, you go by a different name. There needs to be consistency everywhere that you show up. From the voice to the images to the fonts and colors. Someone needs to be able to figure it out within seconds because chances are, that’s all you have to impress your customer before you lose them.

Are you professional?

I can’t tell you how many times I have driven out of a drive thru because the employee on the intercom answers with “Go ‘head.” One thing about me- I will not spend my money in any establishment that does not pride themselves on being professional. Your customers are what make you successful. While I don’t believe that “the customer is always right”, I do believe that you are a representation of your business and that you should deal with people with respect, especially if they’re making you money. Professionalism starts with the very first encounter and includes the entire experience from beginning to end.

Are you organized?

Do you remember back in the day when you would walk into a Ross store and there would be stuff EVERYWHERE. No organization whatsoever. I didn’t shop at Ross for years just because of the fact that I was so overwhelmed with just walking into the store. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. They lost a ton of customers by being disorganized and you’ll notice now that they’ve cleaned up their act. They realized that it was hurting their business and made the adjustment. Your business is being judged based on your organization too. You may not have a physical store, but iIf you have a digital business- how are you communicating with me? Is it consistent? Do you have a website where I can find information? Does the website work? Organization is the difference between a one time buyer and a returning customer. People don’t spend money on a bunch of chaos and confusion.

Are you offering a quality product or service?

I hate to say it, but a lot of black people expect other black people to shop with them just because they’re black. While I love to support a black owned business when I can, I can guarantee you that I’m not going to spend money on something that I don’t see the value in. Brand Identity, Professionalism, and Organization all feed into the customer experience and the combination of all 3 of those together indicate whether your customer will be happy with your product or service. You have to give your buyer an experience that they will remember and the little things go a long way. A customer who sees value in your product or service will spend their money with you again and again.

In order to get to a point where you can create jobs and scale your business to truly be successful, you have to start with what the world sees. How do people view you as the owner and how do they view your business? Do you have a strong brand identity but you’re rude and it takes you weeks to respond to emails? Sit down and take a minute to reflect. What are you doing great at and where do we have room to improve? I don’t know about you but my plan is to grow my business into one that provides me with an income, but even more importantly- one that creates jobs and has power. We can’t make change if we’re not even in the game. Let’s start a community of “black folks” that don’t just want to make money, but also want to make an impact.

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