Today is #BlackoutDay2020. To demonstrate their economic force with an estimated $1.3 trillion in spending power, Black consumers — and anyone wishing to support the Black community in its quest for justice against systemic racism and financial inequity — are encouraged to not spend money today.
Or, if they do, to limit their purchases to companies owned by Black people.
Black-owned small businesses often are more vulnerable financially than others, with smaller cash reserves to survive tough times. And now times couldn’t be tougher. In the wake of a pandemic and protests of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police, they are in jeopardy on every front.
Want to help support them? Here are a few ways.
Become a customer
The most obvious and critical way to help Black-owned businesses survive, of course, is to buy their products and services. Shop and eat at Black-owned establishments, and buy gift cards for your friends and family to spend at your favorite ones.
To find businesses that are Black-owned near you, there are directories, such as this one from Dobobo. You might also check the list of members at your local Black or African-American Chamber of Commerce.
“Now is the time for Americans to demonstrate they really appreciate inclusion. Spend money on less fortunate and disadvantaged businesses, where it can have an immediate impact. Be conscious where you’re spending your money,” said Kenneth Kelly, chairman of the National Bankers Association, a voice for minority banks aiming to help revitalize economies in underserved areas.
Set up a GoFundMe page
That’s what supporters of the popular Sammy’s Avenue Eatery in Minneapolis did. “We currently have a GoFundMe set up by the community! I’d suggest others take the initiative to do it because it’s soooo hard to ask for money from folks!,” said owner Sammy McDowell.
Spread the word
Let people know why the Black-owned businesses you support are worth their support, too.
“It’s an even more important time to post positive reviews of your experience. The mere fact that people are on their phones so much because they’re home, that can drive traffic,” said Apollo Woods, who created OKC Black Eats, a marketing platform to bring attention to Black-owned restaurants and culinary artists in the Oklahoma City area.
Woods believes video testimonials are the most effective because people can both see and hear your enthusiasm.
For restaurants that have takeout and delivery, before automatically ordering through a third-party delivery platform like GrubHub or Seamless, try calling the restaurant directly because it will save the business from paying a portion of their sales in fees.
“They may not have a sophisticated ordering system. But every last one will work their hardest to take your order,” Woods said.
Volunteer your services
If you have critical skills that can be useful to a small business — for example, if you’re an electrician, painter or carpenter, or an accountant or lawyer — ask the owner if there’s some way your services might come in handy.
For businesses that sustained damage during the protests, you might volunteer to help with clean up. Or, for example, if you have a glass business, you might offer a new store front window gratis.
“I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. Everyone looked out for each other,” Woods said. “Have a good heart.”
Take a stand
There is a petition called 15% Pledge you can sign if you believe retailers should commit 15% of their shelf space for products made by Black-owned businesses.
Why 15%? Black people make up nearly 15% of the population of the United States, according to the most recent Census Bureau estimates.
Provide useful information
Many Black-owned small businesses may be in need of financial lifelines for some time as fallout from coronavirus continues. Let them know of small business grant or loan programs from state or local governments or private organizations.
For instance, the Local Initiatives Support Corp (LISC) has an ongoing small business grant program open to anyone, but the organization has a special interest in supporting minority owners who operate in underserved areas.
Hello Alice, a free online business adviser platform, has earmarked more than $200,000 out of its emergency grant pool to make $10,000 grants to Black-owned businesses. That amount is likely to increase as the company continues to fundraise. Hello Alice also has partnered with Verizon to launch the Black-owned Business Resource Center.
Starting in July, online payments platform Finli will offer $500 grants for Black-owned businesses in education and enrichment, such as those offering classes in art, music, yoga, dance or martial arts.
And the National Business League, founded by Booker T. Washington in 1900, has created a digital platform for all Black-owned businesses to find contracting opportunities, funding opportunities and private and public sector clients looking for suppliers. NBL also will launch a global directory of Black-owned businesses that anyone can use.
Both the platform and directory will launch on July 21.
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