OPINION | For Black Business Month, let’s highlight Black women in entrepreneurship

by Olayinka Ola

As we celebrate Black Business Month, it’s important to recognize that today, Black women are achieving more and doing more than ever before, especially in growing their small businesses. One reason for this is the increased use of technology in most businesses and workplaces. From being business owners and mothers while working full-time, technology and the internet age we live in are giving women the tools to succeed.

There is no doubt that women have to work harder than men. As a woman and business owner, I can attest to that. The demands placed on women by society, their careers, themselves or their children can seem all-encompassing and at times overwhelming. No wonder many women have felt the brunt of the pandemic and the childcare crisis.

However, one area of ​​success that women have seen, especially women of color, is in entrepreneurship. In the early months of the pandemic, this was far from certain. One report from the House Small Business Committee showed a 40 percent drop in black-owned businesses in the first months of the pandemic. Yet, according to a 2021 report, nearly half of the women-owned businesses launched during the pandemic were owned by women of color.

One element that has enabled this remarkable change is technology. By lowering the barriers to starting and running a business, technology makes it easier, faster and cheaper to start and run a business from almost anywhere. Today, you still need a solid business plan and very often access to some capital, but once you’ve set up your social media accounts, maybe an email address, a mobile phone and a few other key elements, your business can be off to the races.

In my own business, retail and apparel, we have seen similar changes overnight. Ayo Collections, my company, is a unique African clothing brand producing clothing for both men and women based in Seattle, Washington.

We used to rely on face-to-face sales like any other traditional retail outlet, but at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we turned to social media and advertising as we could no longer rely on face-to-face sales.

We’ve been on social media before – we’ve had a Facebook page since 2012. It wasn’t until COVID shut us down that social media really became part of our showroom and essential to our business. Trade shows we relied on were canceled and we lost many opportunities for in-person presence. Through Facebook and Instagram ads, we were able to easily expand our reach and showcase our collections online. Now 70% of our business is driven by online engagement.

We even use tools on our website to help clients schedule in-person consultations, ensuring we can control foot traffic at our location and have adequate staffing. Our online presence is now a big part of our in-person sales.

At the time of the Great Resignation, people are rethinking their life choices. If they’re tired of playing office politics and putting up with policies that make their lives more difficult—like a lack of flexible schedules and working from home—it’s no wonder why many are looking to leverage their own talents and work for my self.

Today, women-owned businesses make up only about 20% of all businesses and are underrepresented in every demographic compared to their male counterparts. While we have seen tremendous success, there is still significant room for women entrepreneurs to grow and have a more substantial impact on our economy.

Our society needs to do more to help women in the workplace. Technology platforms play a big role in this, but we also need to ensure that women have access to childcare and healthcare. And for women who want to start a business, they need access to capital and resources to help guide them through the early stages of their business.

Living in Washington, DC, we are fortunate to have a congressional delegation that leads on many of these issues. Yet, as women small business owners, we also need constant access to new and innovative technologies to thrive.

South Seattle Emerald is committed to maintaining a place for diverse perspectives within our community, with the understanding that diverse perspectives do not negate mutual respect among community members.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by contributors to this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of Emerald or Emerald’s official policies.

📸 Featured Image: Image by pvgraphics/Shutterstock.com

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