I know. I really didn't want to have this conversation. Since it's a touchy, extremely complex topic, I've avoided this conversation for years, but I can't continue to avoid it since I know this epidemic won't disappear on its own.
So, let's chat, shall we?
We all know (or at least we should) that the rise of Black Businesses is at an all-time high. Folks are walking away from their jobs, creating side hustles, starting local businesses, selling t-shirts, beauty products, becoming travel influencers, hosting pop-up events; you name it.
If it makes money, more than likely Black folks are doing it. We are the creators and innovators. And what I know for certain is that no other race on the planet can do what we can in the way that we can do it.
According to an article I read somewhere (Entrepreneur magazine I believe), African Americans are THE fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs * in the world, Craig.*
In short, we are BRILLIANT.
BUT....yes there's a big but
While we are growing exponentially in size, many of our bank accounts are dry. And just as quickly as we are ramping up start-ups, we're shutting down faster than we can blink.
Recently, I was driving around in the city where I live and found out one of the restaurants had closed. Sadly, it was black-owned.
Just last week I drove down MLK where many local black-owned businesses are housed and I was beyond disturbed that many of them were missing in action. There were offices whose office hours read 8am-5pm but they were closed in the middle of the afternoon. There were boarded-up buildings and the businesses that were open had very few patrons. I've seen this in every city I've lived in, and I'm sure you've noticed it in your neighborhood too.
When I drove another 2 minutes down MLK which quickly turned into a different street name (which is also disturbing), the vibe shifted and I was quickly made aware that I was in a very different neighborhood with thriving businesses and plenty of patrons sitting out on the patio, walking the streets and sitting inside of restaurants and bars.
Deeply saddened by what I've been witnessing not just within the last few weeks or months but YEARS, I've decided to finally have this conversation and to not just talk about it but to put my expertise where my mouth is and to help.
According to an article in Forbes, "Many black women cite a lack of mentors who understand their businesses and business models or feel they can’t connect culturally with the ones they meet."
And when it comes to our Black Men, they may have even more of a challenge when it comes to building and sustaining businesses. According to an article in Huff post, " Black men who are entrepreneurs were walloped by the Great Recession. The exact causes of the poor performance of their businesses are not clear. The data discussed in “The Color of Entrepreneurship“ suggest that economic conditions forced the closure of many of the weaker of Black men’s businesses.
Because I understand firsthand the issues that many African American business owners face, I'm passionate about seeing us do exceptionally well in business and I can no longer sit by and witness the downfall of businesses in my community without using my expertise to help.
In many cases, it's not that you don't have a brilliant idea. It's that you lack the knowledge, resources, and skills to cultivate, nurture and sustain that idea.
Oh, and did I mention support? Many black businesses do not have the support needed to truly thrive in business. Remember that restaurant I spoke about that closed down in my neighborhood? In the article that shared why she was closing down, she stated that she didn't have the support needed to stay open. My heart breaks when I hear these stories. I feel angry as I'm sure you do too because it doesn't have to be this way.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY TO SHIFT THE TRAJECTORY OF YOUR BLACK BUSINESS
Many black businesses don't succeed not only due to lack of funding but lack of knowledge on what it really takes to sustain a business. Attend local workshops, go to business conferences, stay up to date on what's happening in your industry.
INVEST IN THE GROWTH OF YOUR BRAND
Google, youtube and social media platforms host a plethora of information around business but you cannot solely rely on that to sustain your business or to scale it. That saying , "You have to pay to play" will forever ring true. At some point, you are going to have to be willing to delegate the things you may not be so great to people who are and that will cost you. You have to be willing to invest in your business growth in the same way you'd want someone to invest in your product or service.
NURTURE YOUR CURRENT SKILLS
As a web designer, consultant, and creative, I am a forever student. I understand that my work is never done. I am always going to be seeking out new ways to nurture and evolve beyond what I know now. This means that I am taking new classes, attending workshops that challenge me to expand my creativity and consistently practicing my craft to become a better designer and leader.
BECOME GOOD AT RELATIONSHIP BUILDING
This goes far beyond going to networking events and handing out business cards. How's your follow-up game? Do you know HOW to ask for what you want? If you attend a networking conference, local event, or seminar, do you know how to work the room to ensure people remember you?
GAIN BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE SKILLS
This falls in line with relationship building but specifically when it comes to how you serve your customers. I love reading reviews online from customers but I often find myself gasping when I read how business owners respond to customer complaints. Furthermore, I have heard countless stories of business owners abandoning their clients, not being open when they say they will be, and providing less than exceptional service to their clients and customers. This ultimately affects your revenue and often times many business owners don't fully understand this until it's too late. How can you create the ultimate experience for your customers so they keep coming back to you, rave to all their friends and family about your product or service, and send them your way too? A company who I think has mastered this (though a non-black business) is Chic-Fil-A. Their customer service is SUPERB. In my opinion, they've mastered the customer experience and I think everyone could take a page or two from their book when it comes to stepping up their customer service game.
INCREASE YOUR BRAND'S VISIBILITY
Ever put up a social media post on Facebook or Instagram only to notice you've gotten no like or shares? What about that one time you put on that event or workshop you were 100% certain people would attend only to have little to no people show up? You'll beat yourself up and start questioning that maybe your idea wasn't so great after all but maybe it's not the idea. There may not be enough people who have seen it. Maybe people haven't seen YOU enough and because of that, they're a bit apprehensive when it comes to handing over their money. Increase your visibility by blogging, building up your email list and customer relationships, connecting with brands who are similar to yours, going LIVE on Facebook and Instagram. Try to get yourself and your product or service in as front of as many people as you can.
These things may sound extremely basic but they are the fundamentals to building any business no matter what industry you're in.
NEED SOME SUPPORT?
Sovereign Brand is a mentorship program where you get personal support to help you grow your business. We work together 1:1 to fine-tune the structure of your business and help you feel more more confident as a leader and business owner as you focus on growing.
I hope you really feel my heart on this. It's time for us to go beyond surviving, and starting a business just to be able to brag that we are entrepreneurs. It's time to shift our focus to building solid businesses so that we can not only fulfill our life's purpose but so that we set the foundation and create a legacy for generations to come.
In the meantime, you can set up a free call with me to learn more about how we can work together.
I honor you and what you bring to this world. I see you. Let's do this!