Senior Manager, Communications
February 24, 2021
Black-owned small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, with nearly half of them having to close their doors since April 2020. A recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation showed that 60 percent of Black-owned businesses have experienced a decrease in sales in the past six months. Our economic recovery depends on the success of these businesses, and to be successful, they need significant and sustained support.
That’s why the U.S. Chamber Foundation partnered with American Express and the nation’s leading Black chambers to launch the Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB) – a business-led initiative to provide immediate financial assistance and long-term support for America’s Black-owned small businesses. Since its launch in September 2020, CBBB distributed $5,000 grants to 600 Black small business owners across the country and continues to offer mentorship, training, and resources to help them further grow their business.
We spoke with six CBBB grantees to hear what their outlook is for the future of the Black small business community and what Black business owners need the most right now to thrive. What follows has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Kim Roxie, Founder, LAMIK Beauty (Houston, Texas)
“When I think about Black-owned businesses, I think about our ancestors. For example, the first female self-made millionaire in America, Madam C.J. Walker, and how she made it during her times. Black women find a way to persevere and make something out of nothing; that's why they call it “Black Girl Magic.” I think that’s the part we have to hold on to: our resiliency to face barriers and not have it easy, but still overcome.
Black women have been opening up businesses at a higher rate than the average. And if we get support like the CBBB initiative provides, then we can go from Black women-owned businesses averaging revenue of $24,000, to averaging revenue of one million dollars. We have the perseverance, we have the grit, we have the work ethic, we have the great ideas…so I think just opening up access to resources will empower Black-owned businesses to do even better. I'm really hopeful about what the future holds."
LaVerne Bowen, Founder and CEO,
(Bronx, New York)
“I'm very encouraged by the recent change in climate within the U.S., the spotlight being placed on our culture. It’s important to have a continual acknowledgement that we are here, that Black businesses do exist. If we can raise awareness of our culture in the same way other cultures do, as well as showcase our products and services, I think that would help in the long-run. For example, a platform where Black-owned small businesses can come together to exchange ideas and offer support for one another on a consistent basis. We could have digital festivals or remote get-togethers to reintroduce ourselves to the world, and let everyone know that we are here, we have wonderful products to sell, and wonderful services to give.”
Virginia Sharp, Co-Owner, Daemarii's Unique Boutique, LLC (Macon, Georgia)
“If you’re going to survive, you have to carve out a niche that's going to make you stand out from the others. And if you had to close your doors, then continue to do something, either on social media or by building a website…something to maintain your business and clientele until you can get back into the brick and mortar site.
I believe that at some point, all of this is going to level out and people will be able to get back to what they're doing, and we’ll be able to move forward. Small businesses are so vital to the community; it's what carries a lot of smaller towns. I'm very hopeful when I say I think we're going to be okay. If Black-owned small businesses can just hold on, I strongly believe we're going to bounce back.”
Goldman Jackson Jr., Owner,
“As far as my business goes, I feel very confident. I’ve had to endure hard times over the years, such as in 2008 with the economic crash, on top of losing my wife to cancer before that and having to raise twin girls. It was a big challenge for me. But I'm still up for it and for making it happen. If Black businesses are able to hang on during these tough times, I feel really, really good about the future. They just need to keep it up.
Networking is a key thing for long-term success, especially as a Black business owner in my field. It's tough to get out there and compete. Minority businesses within the community need to come together and network more often. Especially when tough times like this come about, pulling resources together between businesses to keep each other going helps out a great deal.”
Tonnie Rozier, Owner,
(Newark, New Jersey)
“Black-owned businesses tend to struggle due to lack of resources as well as our inability to properly surround ourselves with mentors. However, our future may be brighter than ever! The recent rally and support systems implemented have done wonders for my business. Despite the obstacles, barriers, and the history of Black-owned businesses’ inability to sustain and create generational wealth, we have proven that such goals are now an option.
Long-term success requires early stage building and learning from our mistakes. Here are a few rules based on my 25 years in business that business owners should remember.
- Success cannot be rushed.
- One of the hardest things is being told what you already know.
- You can’t be afraid to fall out of the sky; just keep going and know others have done it.
- Success is only given to those who really want it and the end result is based on how bad you want to succeed.
- Marketing is not a suggestion, it’s a must! Most of us begin to attempt to market when we are on the way out and it’s generally too late.
- Make sure you love it or have a team with you that loves it for you.
- Model a business that’s 10x the size of yours and keep it your objective to catch them and surpass them.
- Write your goals down and then provide an answer when they’re not achieved.
- Review all of the above and find someone to hold you accountable!”