September 20, 2022


Small businesses are the backbone of America’s economy. They account for nearly half of private sector employment and contribute more than 40% to the U.S. gross domestic product. Record inflation, worker shortages, and extreme weather events have presented continual challenges as businesses recover following the pandemic.

A recent survey released by the National Federation of Independent Business found that about half of small business owners still can’t fill open jobs, a near-record high in the survey’s roughly five-decade history. On top of this, research conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife showed that one in three small business owners now rank inflation as their highest concern.

The Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB) – a multi-year initiative founded in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, American Express, and four leading national Black business organizations – helps provide opportunities for success. Since the initiative’s launch, the CBBB has distributed $5,000 grants to more than 1,000 Black small business owners across the country and continues to offer resources to help business owners thrive.

We connected with four CBBB grantees to hear some specific challenges their businesses face in this current climate. What follows has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Che Raquel Ward, Owner, Hurt and Healing Behavioral Health and Wellness (Havelock, NC)

“As a healing professional, it feels like our business has undergone some healing because of the CBBB initiative! When my business began, my challenges paralleled those of the clients I hoped to heal. I was unaware of the resources available, how to attain them, the areas in which I could use additional support, and had been dismayed by institutional barriers; real and perceived. Much like my struggle, many minority families hold a stigma against mental health and are unaware of the diversity of resources available to them.

Currently, our biggest obstacles include credentialing, financial management, and expansion. Becoming credentialed with larger insurance providers is arduous for a sole provider and increases as a private group practice. We now meet the criteria for group credentialing but must hire a credentialing specialist to handle the time-consuming tasks and paperwork associated with it. Additionally, we are looking to add a billing specialist and accountant to address the increasing needs of joining these insurance panels. The accountant will also serve the purpose of helping us to identify gaps and locate funding and tax breaks to keep us growing. Finally, we are seeking funding to add additional therapists and increase community outreach methods so that we can further our reach to those underserved in our community and throughout the state.”

Bronwyn Morgan, Owner, Xeo Air (East St. Louis, IL)

“As a tech entrepreneur, I’ve been watching the economy very closely, as inflation has impacted financial planning in categories such as gas, compensation, and marketing costs, which affect the bottom line. I am encouraged by the Inflation Act and the decrease in oil prices, which I hope will hold. Another big issue we’re facing is access to components for the equipment we need, so the CHIP Act overtime will help solve these issues, as well as new local advanced manufacturing sites. If we can keep costs reasonable, then we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. This, however, may take a while. In the meantime, we must be very strategic in our planning.

In addition, finding good talent is always a challenge, but now more so than ever. Thankfully, we’re in an industry that attracts a great deal of interest and potential hires. We must work hard to train the staff we need to be superior in execution. Now more than ever, business owners must make critical decisions and provide real-time solutions to all facets of operations.”

Dr. LaTonya Mister, Owner, SOW & REAP Physical Therapy (Bossier City, LA)

“The challenges we have noticed are due to our patient’s rising insurance costs. Most of our patients use medical insurance to cover payment of their treatments. With some insurance plans reimbursing less and patients paying more, some cannot afford the cost of their physical therapy treatments. Patients will report feeling better; however, some stop attending once they receive their insurance bill. A few of our patients said that they would love to return to finish their treatments, but they can’t afford it. They know that physical therapy helps them to feel stronger, but with the rising cost of living, they cannot reach their health goals. We encourage our patients to call their insurance provider or search for an affordable plan that will allow them to finish their treatments. We try our best to work with our patients, but sometimes that is not enough. Our primary goal is to improve our patient’s health, and it frustrates us when some patients must choose between their health or finances.”

April Harris, Owner, Keeping You Sweet (Paterson, NJ)

“In 2011, my mom passed away and I was devastated. I felt like I could not live without her. I leaned heavily on my faith and began using her recipes to bake, which eased my grief. Baking became my life passion and led to the start of my business. While I am excited to be a food entrepreneur with products in Whole Foods Market, the challenges have been interesting. The best word to describe what you must do in the current climate is “pivot”.

When the pandemic began, we were only a wholesaler and in April of 2020, we stopped receiving orders. We quickly decided to pivot our business to sell online and to our local community. That pivot increased our revenue and allowed us to learn what our true customer base was going to be. Currently, with inflation and a shortage of committed employees, we have had to pivot again by reducing our product line and focusing on our top sellers. If possible, ensure your business has several revenue streams so that if one dries up, you have another. You can either focus on what is not going your way as an entrepreneur or you can change it.”