Here’s how to support Black-owned small businesses, whether you are a business owner yourself or looking for a way to support your local community
Note: This story was last updated February 10, 2021
The summer of 2020 brought mass protests across the country calling for structural reform to fight institutionalized racism and police brutality. Since then, there’s been a continued call to support Black-owned businesses.
There are 2.6 million Black-owned businesses in the United States, according to a 2015 U.S. Census Report. As small businesses have been closed around the country because of COVID-19, supporting these businesses can help keep people employed and help them stay open.
Why support Black-owned businesses?
Black-owned businesses need support after months of a pandemic-induced shutdown — on top of centuries of inequity that have left their businesses more exposed. Not only are the infections and deaths from COVID-19 higher for Black Americans, the economic hit has been harder, too.
But the importance of buying from Black-owned businesses is deeper than combatting the effects of the pandemic. With roots in a long history of discriminatory lending practices, Black business owners are less likely to have access to capital or government bailout funds.
CEO of WPClover Sheffie Robinson said it’s clear why Black-owned businesses have been especially affected by COVID-19 crisis.
“The reason Black-owned businesses are disproportionately affected by economic downturns is because our businesses operate on the same constraints of the personal lives of many in our community,” Robinson said.
“Many of us live paycheck to paycheck because we don’t have generational wealth to give us leverage in our younger lives … The Black business is no different.”
The Black community has been disproportionately impacted. The percentage of working Black business owners has dropped 40% as COVID-19 shut down the economy, the highest of any racial group. They’ve also struggled to access the financial support meant to float businesses during this time.
An April 2020 report from the Center for Responsible Lending found that 95% of Black-owned businesses “stand close to no chance of receiving a PPP loan through a mainstream bank or credit union.”
This is because Black-owned businesses are less likely to have the necessary relationships with lending institutions. Additionally, lending institutions created their own requirements for lending and were incentivized to lend to larger clients.
“The best way to help is to become a better ally,” said Keymia Sharpe, owner of Miami-based tourism company Key2MIA.
Help your community today by supporting Black-owned businesses in your area. Here’s how to get started.
How to find local, Black-owned businesses
“Showing support for Black-owned businesses doesn’t mean anything different than those owned by any other race,” said Renee Manzari CEO and founder of Livity Yoga.
Make a purchase
Join the masses of people contributing to the huge spike in downloads apps highlighting Black-owned businesses. Use the apps to prioritize shopping at Black-owned businesses, both in your community and nationwide.
- BlackNation: Download the app to find locally Black-owned businesses in your community.
- Official Black Wall Street: One of the most comprehensive collections of Black-owned businesses. Additionally, the app sends you push notifications when you’re close to a Black-owned business.
- EatOkra: App and directory of Black-owned restaurants in 35 cities. This is a crowdfunded effort, so be sure to add businesses in your community that are missing.
- Buy From a Black Woman: Both a directory of businesses and an organization that “ensures that Black women have the tools and resources that will allow them to be successful.”
- List of Black-owned bookstores by state: Purchase the books you’re buying to educate yourself from a Black-owned bookstore. This Refinery29 article offers options by state.
Manzari points out that purchasing goods and services isn’t the only way to support a business.
“If you can’t give monetary support, show it in other ways like signing up for a newsletter, sharing the business in social media, or asking if they need help with a project via volunteering,” Manzari said.
Use social media
“To start changing up the algorithms on your social media profiles and following some locally owned Black-businesses,” Sharpe said.
- Follow Black-owned businesses on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and tag them in your posts and stories.
- Search the hashtag #Blackownedbuisinesses to find self-identifying, Black-owned businesses and lists that others have compiled.
- Review goods and services on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and other crowd sourced review sites.
Demand retailers commit to the 15% pledge
Follow the 15percentpledge Instagram page and sign the petition calling for big retailers, like Target and Whole Foods, to stock 15% of their products from Black-owned businesses.
In an Instagram post, creator and founder of the sustainable accessory line Brother Veillies Aurora James said, “We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.”
James further outlines the magnitude such a commitment would have on the Black community.
“Whole Foods, if you were to sign on to this pledge, it could immediately drive much needed support to Black farmers. Banks will be forced to take them seriously because they will be walking in with major purchase orders from Whole Foods. Investors for the very first time will start actively seeking them out,” James said in the same Instagram post.
Go beyond lip service
Look at your own suppliers
If you’re a business owner yourself, evaluate your own suppliers.
“I think that task forces need to be put together within larger organizations to do the work to see who their suppliers are, from cleaning to office supplies to staffing. Then these task forces can start creating a strategy around how some of their business can be channeled to Black-owned businesses,” said Erica Moore-Burton, attorney and founder of Round Hill Search.
Donate to organizations that help Black business owners
Donate to organizations amplifying Black and minority voices in the business community. The National Minority Supplier Development Council establishes relationships with top businesses and vendors along the supply chain in the Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities. Their REBUILDING fund invests in minority owned businesses suffering from the COVID-related economic downturn. You can donate here.
Put money toward anti-racism causes
If you’re a business owner, consider matching employee donations to organizations fighting racism. As an individual, consider becoming a sustainer or making a one-time donation to organizations like Black Lives Matter, Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP, the ACLU, the Color of Change.
Information on other ways to be a better ally
Jayson Watkins began this Google document to list actionable ways for people to get involved with the BLM movement and to join the anti-Black racism movement. It’s grown considerably and includes information on petitions, protests, contacting officials, and supporting locally-owned Black businesses in a variety of locations nationwide.
Resources for Black-business owners
If you’ve struggled to access capital or government economic relief funds, here are some resources to help.
- 21 Best Resources for Black Business Owners
- 9 financial resources for women and minority business owners affected by the coronavirus
Finally, keep asking
Founder of online retailer Innovative Supplies Nneka M. Brown-Massey thinks supporting Black-owned businesses is easier than we may think.
“I think we can actively help these businesses during these times by personally contacting them and just asking what we can do to help them. Many might be hesitant to answer because they view it as a sign of weakness to disclose that they are vulnerable in these types of situations. Keep asking,” Brown-Massey said.