Black Women in Business: Surviving or Thriving through COVID-19?

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Support Black women entrepreneurs as we continue to heal and build our communities. Black women have made remarkable gains in entrepreneurship. According to the Business Wire, “African American women-owned businesses represented the highest rate of growth of any group” between 2014 and 2019 and between 2018 and 2019. “They started 42% of net new women-owned businesses, which is three times their share of the female population (14%).” However, a wealth disparity continues to exist. The Business Wire “estimates that if revenues generated by minority women-owned firms matched those currently generated by all women-owned businesses, they would add four million new jobs and $981 billion in revenues to the U.S. economy. Rooted in historical and systemic racism, the economic impact of this gap is significant.

In addition to the revenue disparity, we also know that COVID-19 is leaving Black women entrepreneurs particularly vulnerable. According to an Essence Magazine study, resulting from COVID-19, “70% of Black women business owners reported a negative impact on their businesses, with the majority attributing the impact to no or low sales, supply chain disruptions and an inability to cover expenses.” To mediate these economic hits, I admonish clients to pay Black women comparable wages to that of White and male counterparts. In addition, it is important for Black women to receive and seek mentorship on business principles, marketing, pricing and data analysis. We can receive this support from colleagues of all backgrounds, as well as within our own community.

For example, I meet bimonthly with two fellow entrepreneurs: Dr. Sydney Richardson, a career consultant, author and coach, and Dr. Shana LeGrant, an aspiring business-owner. We meet for an hour twice a month to share insights, resources and strategies that will help to catapult our businesses forward. We set an agenda for our meetings to keep us focused on our entrepreneurial goals. We alternate facilitating the meeting, and we maintain a running database to house our resources. Most invaluably, we share praise reports of our successes, offer business opportunities and we encourage one another. This think-tank has proven to be a treasured space of growth and development. Additionally, businesswomen Deborah Pullen and Jen Barber assisted me with my social media marketing. I encourage women to tap the mind power that is available within their networks. The answers that you need to build your business may be just one sister away.

The Black community has a strong legacy of entrepreneurship, resilience and grit. Although many are familiar with powerhouses like Madam C.J. Walker and Oprah Winfrey, according to the Gradient Global Collective, “Entrepreneurship is not new for African American women, as we have historically had to create additional income streams to provide for the well-being of our families, due to pay inequities, under employment, and lack of professional advancement in the workplace.” I want to encourage Black women everywhere. We will overcome these challenging times. Our success hinges on the shoulders of those who came before us. This link pays homage to a few of our entrepreneurial foremothers.

With such a powerful legacy, we have no choice but to land on our feet and come back stronger than ever. In fact, I am encouraged by the number of Black women today who are launching businesses, using the current conditions as opportunities for creativity and who are thriving. However, we must consider the entire village. Not everyone is enjoying the same successes. Just as I encouraged Black businesswomen to seek out mentorship; if you are thriving, I challenge you to reach back into our community and see who you can bring alongside of you. Together, we can shift this narrative. We know that the Black community, other minoritized communities and White allies will wrap their arms of support around us. Let’s build together! Support a Black woman-owned business today.

Blogger: Dr. Krishauna Hines-Gaither

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Renae Bluitt’s first cinematic project, ‘She Did That.’ explores the passionate pursuits of Black women and their entrepreneurship journeys. An extension of Renae’s In Her Shoes blog, ‘She Did That.’ offers an intimate peek inside the lives of Black women entrepreneurs who continuously raise the glass ceiling for future generations.

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