Brooklyn’s Black-Owned Small Businesses Grow Despite Challenges
Category: Black Business,Black-Owned Businesses,Brooklyn,Minority Business,Woman-Owned Author: BCDAlliance Date: 8 months ago Comments: 0

Although the pandemic threatens those gains, many entrepreneurs are pushing on and getting creative to weather the storm

“My business is crippled right now,” Kim Morrison told BK Reader. However, it would be a mistake to count her out.

Morrison, the owner of Unique Weddings & Tours, has weathered many storms since launching her company in 2012. The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest obstacle she’s navigating to enable her Prospect–Lefferts Garden travel and events business to thrive.

It’s that type of determination that has helped a number of Black-owned businesses across the borough to expand.

Brooklyn’s Black-owned businesses expand in the face of obstacles

Minority-owned businesses in New York City grew 7.4 percent between 2012 to 2017, according to a recent report by independent think tank Center for an Urban Future.

During that time, the citywide number of Hispanic-owned businesses decreased by 8.7 percent. However, Asian-owned businesses grew by 14 percent, and Black-owned businesses increased at nearly four times the rate of white-owned business.

In Brooklyn, the number of Black-owned businesses surged 16.6 percent during the five years, making Brooklyn the county with the fifth largest number of Black-owned businesses nationwide. Still, Black businesses represent just 3.5 percent of all firms across the city — an indication of the obstacles to success they face.

“It’s very hard for entrepreneurs to survive, not only now with the pandemic, but also before,” Morrison said, adding that many Black entrepreneurs in her network shared that experience.

A significant part of the challenge could be summed by this: A lack of access to capital.

Most Black-owned businesses start at a significant financial disadvantage compared to white-owned businesses, according to The New York Times. Black entrepreneurs launch their businesses with far less capital and typically struggle over the years to stay afloat financially. Banks and other financial institutions tend to view Black and minority entrepreneurs as less credit worthy. Consequently, Black entrepreneurs often rely more heavily on family and friends to fund and sustain their business.

“I appreciate good friends who can help when my business is financially in need,” Morrison said. “They believe in me and helped me believe in myself. That’s why I survived — not because of bank loans.”

Will the pandemic wipe those gains?

Despite the tenacity of many minority-business owners, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the gains. Between February and April, Black-owned businesses declined nationwide by 41 percent during the lockdown, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York analysis.

The Reserve Bank blamed much of the high attrition rate on the lack of relationships between Black entrepreneurs and financial institutions.

Back in January, Morrison expected 2020 to be a turning point toward solidifying her success until COVID-19 came along and wiped out about 80 percent of her travel business. Her plan B is to launch a customized gift baskets business in October. That will help to keep her business afloat until tourism and events markets bounce back in 2021.

Like Morrison, Nadia Aristide anticipated 2020 would be a breakthrough year for her business and finance consulting firm, Maroon Strategist. She had several contracts on the table before they evaporated with the pandemic, as many of her clients faced an uncertain future.

“I found opportunity in the middle of chaos,” Aristide, Maroon’s president and CFO, said. Aristide has been in business for nearly five years, with an office at Brooklyn Commons co-working space.

Instead of sinking into despair, she studied information from the Small Business Administration on how small businesses could stay afloat during the economic crisis, as well as the loan and grant programs that became available. She soon found herself teaching webinars and helping entrepreneurs who were unaware of the federal lifelines.

How to survive the hard economic times

In these difficult times, Aristide advises her small business clients to know their income and expenditures.

“You need to understand your cash flow and financials, revenue and operating expenses. It’s not just how much money you are making each month. It’s also how much you are spending,” she tells her clients, many of whom are minority-business owners.

She noted that if they wanted to apply for government financial assistance, such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), financial institutions typically require detailed cash flow information.

Aristide has been pleasantly surprised to receive a sudden influx of people who want to start a small business or a nonprofit. Many of them were independent contractors who had no business entity. Consequently, they had no business banking accounts and couldn’t apply for government coronavirus relief funding.

“There is a lack of knowledge in our community. A lot of entrepreneurs who had side hustles had to wake up,” she said.

Empowering Black Women in Business Means More Than Ticking a Few Boxes
Category: Black Business,Woman-Owned Author: BCDAlliance Date: 8 months ago Comments: 0

It’s time to stop overlooking this key demographic. 


Empowering Black Women in Business Means More Than Ticking a Few Boxes
Photo: Getty Images/Illustration: Chloe Krammel

When the invisible woman is born and placed into her mother’s warm embrace, she doesn’t know she is invisible. At that moment, her invisibility exists only as a lingering fear in the back of her mother’s mind. Yet her mother has hopes that things will be different for her daughter than they were for her. The mother dreams her baby won’t be subjected to the injustices that she, the mother, has to face. The newborn’s only transgressions, after all, are her skin color and her gender.

Early on in her life, the invisible woman has glimpses of her invisibility, although she doesn’t quite understand what it means. It’s simply a mote of emotion that leaves her feeling out of place. It begins within her own family and the colorism that defines how they see her and, by learning through their examples, how she sees herself. “Don’t stay out in the sun too long–we don’t want you getting darker!” “We need to straighten that girl’s nappy hair!”

These messages, coupled with the stream of images and advertisements she sees every day of straight-haired and happy fair-skinned women living fantastic moments, coalesce around her into an environment that seems to value something other than what she is. Very early on, the invisible woman starts to feel as if she needs to be different if she wants to belong, if she wants to be loved. Little does she know that this is only the beginning. It is just the cusp of a lifetime of everyday indignities that will make her hunch her shoulders, hide her full lips, and use chemicals to straighten her curls.

She will try to accommodate these messages, to increase her visibility by conforming to what her environment seems to expect of her. Later on, she will always question which parts of her are genuine, and which parts emerged as an attempt to fit into a world that expects her to be something other than who she is. She will find her identity, but her true self will be fading away.

As customers, as colleagues, as human beings, Black women are the most neglected, underserved, and disregarded people in America. Black women are more often than not ignored by health care professionals, and they have a mortality rate during childbirth three to four times higher than that of non-Hispanic White women. Socioeconomic status, education, and other factors do not protect against this and other health disparities, because sexism and racism are the primary drivers. The invisible woman feels pain and is ignored and suffers from ailments that can be treated, if only medical professionals would actually see her.

Few Black women ever reach senior-level positions in corporate America, even with the highest levels of education. Over the past 40 years, only 13 percent of Black female Harvard MBAs have reached senior-most executive ranks. Thirty-five percent of college women are Black, and yet they make up only 3 percent of the top-wage workforce and are paid 39 percent less than White men and 21 percent less than White women. The invisible woman tries to shine, tries her hardest to be the best, but she becomes demoralized because her best will never be seen as good enough.

In the company where she works, perhaps your company, she is passed up time and time again for promotions and raises while being managed by people who don’t see what she could contribute–or see her at all. This person who was brought into the world with so much hope feels her own hope fading. Our public conversations about women in the workplace have mainly focused on the experiences of White women. The Black woman remains invisible. Her crucial perspectives go unheard, and we ignore why the disparities between White women and Black women–in earnings, advancement opportunities, unemployment rates, and in so many other areas­–continue to exist. There are ways you can help change this. I do not need to tell you that. Those who achieve positions of power in a complex hierarchy are resistant to change. It is human nature to stick with what has worked for us in the past. But in a changing environment, there is value in rethinking our process. We no longer live in the same world we grew up in.In a changing environment, there is value in rethinking our process.

This woman who is rarely seen, heard, or supported is forced to buy from companies that barely acknowledge her existence. She is rarely shown advertisements that she can relate to. Store owners treat her with disdain, following her around their shops as if she were a criminal. And her buying power, for her and her family, is incredibly under­estimated. For you, it is a missed opportunity to be a human and a smart businessperson.

What if instead of society, of you, treating her as invisible, you decided to see her, as she is? A powerful force with a different perspective; a shining beacon that illuminates all around her, driving the total Black spending power estimated to reach $1.5 trillion by 2021? What if companies specifically sought out Black women to hire for senior positions, not as a PR stunt or to tick a box, but because they understood that this untapped group of people with enormous spending power is aching to be seen and heard? What if brands sell to her in a way that is relatable to her, growing genuine customer loyalty? What if the invisible were finally, simply seen?

Is it as easy as hiring more Black women to high-power positions? Yes. That is a very good start. But then you have to not just listen, but also hear. You have to not just look, but also see. There is likely someone right now within your organization who has been overlooked. Someone whose perspective and personal experience would be a valuable asset to guide your organization through the current dynamic and quickly changing environment.

After all, how can a room full of White men and, maybe, a sprinkle of White women, along with a single invisible Black woman who is present but unseen and unheard, determine what products people of color need and want? Let us discuss ways to empathize with, even prioritize, the Black experience and understand that the Black experience isn’t the same as the White experience, but it is just as much an American experience. Accountability to the underrepresented needs to be addressed seriously as well as transparently to tackle the most persistent problems affecting all sections of society.

A shift in perception is needed. It’s hard to change, but you can do this. The hope is that one day, the invisible woman will cradle her own baby in her arms, and know that this child’s world will be different from the one she grew up in. She doesn’t think this is a goal that is very far out of reach. She can see it on the horizon. She has faith that her daughter will live a life filled with pride, purpose, and recognition. She thinks her daughter will be able to shape the future to her vision. She believes she will be seen.