What National Black Business Month Means for America

The value of entrepreneurship has long held sway in the black community, making it a major contributor to the nation’s economy.

At the same time, recent forces such as the devastating impact of the pandemic and ongoing socioeconomic struggles such as the lack of access to much-needed capital to start or expand businesses have made it extremely challenging for black entrepreneurs trying to advance in the highly competitive business mainstream.

This month now represents National Black Business Month. This historic annual event provides a chance for consumers and owners to not only support black businesses, but provide them with a platform to grow their businesses and build wealth for current and future generations of African-Americans.

More than 3.2 million black-owned businesses in America

According to 2018 data from the Annual Business Survey and Non-Employer Demographic Statistics, there are more than 3.2 million black-owned U.S. businesses employing more than 1.18 million workers, based on data provided by the Administration for US small businesses. About 19.4% of employer businesses in 2019 were minority-owned, totaling about 1.1 million businesses, and 2.4% were black-owned.

Created to help overcome obstacles, National Black Business Month’s roots date back to 2004, when August was designated as such by two black entrepreneurs, Eng. Frederick E. Jordan and John William Templeton, president and executive editor of eAccess Corp., a scholarly publishing company. Jordan was bound to showcase and encourage black business owners like himself after experiencing great obstacles, BLACK ENTERPRISE reported.

The duo aimed to “advance the policy agenda affecting the 2.6 million African-American businesses to highlight and empower black business owners everywhere given the unique challenges minority business owners face, according to National Business Today. It includes “Jordan’s personal experience of struggling to get financial support and funding when he started his business in San Francisco in 1969.”

Black businesses have been doing it for centuries

However, the history of black entrepreneurship can be traced back to the late 1700s, when free and enslaved blacks opened small businesses such as barbershops and tobacconists. National Business Today reports. It states that the number of black-owned businesses increased with emancipation and then, despite the times, rose in the early 20th century.

“From 1900 to 1930, the period was known as the ‘Golden Era’ for black-owned businesses. Segregation helped maintain black-owned areas, including Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

There were other major timeframes reflecting the spirit of Black Business Month. One is the founding of the National Negro Business League in 1900 by the iconic Booker T. Washington. Now called the National Business League, the organization bills itself as America’s oldest and largest trade group for black businesses. Another star moment was the launch of BLACK ENTERPRISE more than half a century later. In August 1970, the late Earl G. Graves, Sr., published the first issue of the magazine. It serves largely as a handbook for black entrepreneurs seeking to start and grow their companies.

four years ago, BLACK ENTERPRISE celebrated the 45th anniversary of its list of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses — The BE 100s. The tribute featured 45 highlights illustrating the broad impact on black business and economic development and American industry over four decades. It features some game-changing entrepreneurs and disruptors. Between them: Arthur G. Gastonthe late founder and chairman of financial institutions BE 100s Citizens Federal Savings Bank and Booker T. Washington Life Insurance Co., and the late Reginald Lewis and TLC Group’s acquisition of Beatrice International Foods in a $985 million leveraged buyout, creating the first black-owned business to cross the billion dollar revenue threshold.

Nationwide Insurance, among the nation’s largest financial services companies, is also at the forefront of driving the development and advancement of black-owned businesses. In addition to its sponsorship of the Black Entrepreneur Summit, the company is cited throughout corporate America for expanding business opportunities and increasing supply dollars to MBEs as a major thrust of its Diversity, Exclusion, Inclusion (DEI) efforts.

Buying black to overcome business obstacles

For their part, Jordan and Templeton also advocated for government officials and community leaders to address the structural barriers that hinder black businesses, the Post News Group reported.

“The key takeaway from National Black Business Month is that redirecting a small portion of our individual spending would dramatically increase the sales of black-owned businesses,” Templeton said earlier in BLACK ENTERPRISE.

Observers say it’s critical for consumers and business owners to support black business owners during the month for several other reasons. For example, patronage is needed more than ever as many black businesses are recovering from the pandemic and have had a harder time doing so than other groups. In fact, about 53% of black business owners have seen revenue drop by 50% or more since COVID-19 became a widespread problem, compared to just 37% of white business owners.

Others add that support is needed because of systemic racism across the nation, and black businesses need reassurance that they are not fighting these conditions alone. Additionally, such advocacy and consumerism promote diversity and inclusion, as black-owned businesses tend to hire more diverse employees and invest in their communities.

It has also been estimated that black entrepreneurs can earn over 10 times more than non-black business owners, helping to reduce the racial wealth gap and promote economic balance.

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