The summer of 2020 saw a surge in support for Black-owned businesses in conjunction with racial justice protests. In fact, Yelp’s 2020 2nd Quarter Economic Impact Report revealed that between May 25 and July 10, consumers conducted more than 2,500,000 searches for Black-owned businesses on the company’s website. As a point of comparison, over the same period in 2019, there were 35,000 searches for Black-owned businesses.
However, these findings are juxtaposed with a somber report from the University of California at Santa Cruz, which was published by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. As a result of the pandemic, 440,000 Black-owned businesses had closed their doors by the middle of April, representing a 41% drop in this demographic. This compares to a 32% drop in Latinx businesses, a 26% drop in Asian-owned businesses, and a 17% drop in white-owned businesses.
According to data from the Center for Responsible Lending, small businesses of color were less likely to apply for and be approved for the Paycheck Protection Program. They’re also less likely to be approved for any type of business loan during the pandemic. For Black-owned businesses able to remain open through the summer, the boost in brand awareness and customers likely played a major role in keeping them from going under.
However, if this support was just a passing trend, it’s possible that it merely served to delay the inevitable. So how can companies and consumers support Black-owned businesses on a regular basis? We went straight to the source and asked several Black business owners for their thoughts.
Actively Search for Black Businesses
Depending on where you live or work, Black-owned businesses may not be down the street or around the corner. Or perhaps they are, and you just don’t know it. In any event, make it a point to search for them.
Carenda Deonne, an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and author in Chesapeake, VA, recommends using sites like Black Yelp. “You can search for multiple products or services and see a list of Black-owned businesses within that search category,” she explains. “This is one resource that can be truly beneficial in supporting Black businesses.”
And according to Tammy Dickerson, principal owner of The Baker Group in Culver, CA, it’s also important for Black-owned businesses to support other Black businesses. “Whenever possible, we utilize several resource and referral lists to ensure we know reputable Black-owned companies to use and refer business to,” she says. “We feel strongly as a women- and Black-owned firm that hiring other minorities for consulting services, products, and services is imperative.”
Expand Your View of a ‘Black Business’
The Yelp report also revealed the most popular Black-owned business searches. People searched for Black-owned boutiques (an increase of 331% from the same time last year), doctors (183% increase), coffee shops (161% increase), and bakeries and ice cream shops (56% increase).
According to Erica Johnson, CEO and creative director at E-Partners Marketing in Jacksonville, FL, Black-owned businesses shouldn’t just be considered for hair, beauty, fashion products, or food. “For Black businesses to be supported on a regular basis, the perspective has to change,” she says. “Start considering them in all categories of commerce alongside other races–when you need a lawyer, accountant, florist, handyman, event planner, web developer, chemist, et cetera.”
Evan Leaphart, founder and CEO at Kiddie Kredit, agrees. His technology-based company teaches kids about credit and financial literacy. “We support Black businesses by hiring Black web developers and independent contractors,” Leaphart says. “The obvious ways to support Black businesses is through the retail sector, but independent contractors need support as well.”
Share Black Businesses Via Social Media/Word of Mouth
There’s one way you can provide continuous support without spending a dime, according to Marven Salgado, founder of Social Influence Builder. “The best way to support Black-owned businesses isn’t all about spending within the community.” In fact, Salgado believes that while money can help, he doesn’t think every situation gets solved by throwing money at it.
“However, when people share our services to their social media platforms, it will help everyone tremendously,” he says. “Each time a business is shared, there’s a fresh set of eyes that are discovering the hidden gems out there; sometimes, these businesses just need a voice, and that can be achieved by sharing.”
This view is shared by Casanova Brooks, a business owner, motivational speaker, and real estate investor in Omaha, NE. “We all know how social media is useful for companies, so start by following Black-owned businesses on social media and tag them in your posts and stories to help them gain exposure.”
He also recommends using the hashtag #black-ownedbusinesses on social media to find business. “In addition, review their services and goods on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and other review sites, which will draw traffic to their site—and that can lead to more business for them,” Brooks says.
Hold Yourself and Others Accountable
Engaging in social activism is another way to show your support for Black-owned businesses on a regular basis. Brooks recommends joining movements that support Black-owned businesses and advocate for their rights. “An example is the 15percentpledge, in which the Black community is campaigning for retailers to commit 15% of their stock/shelf space to Black-owned businesses, as they occupy 15% of the population.” Brooks recommends finding these types of campaigns or sharing awareness about them via social media.
Dickerson takes a similar approach. Although she stated earlier that she actively uses and refers others to Black-owned businesses, she doesn’t stop there. “When working with our majority partners, we also implore them to use the same practices through subcontracting,” Dickerson says.
In addition to sharing information about Black-owned businesses, consider sharing information with them. “Be fair and operate with integrity to let Black business owners know of opportunities, bids, board seats that are available, et cetera,” recommends Stacy Roberts, president of SMR Leadership Solutions in Evans, GA. “Allow them to serve on boards and committees that allow their voices to be heard and change to occur.”
Sometimes, supporting Black-owned businesses on a year-round basis requires letting their voices be heard so they can enact change, not only for themselves, but also to create a more diverse and inclusive business community.