November 18, 2021
CEO, Fontenot Strategic Consulting
Countless small businesses have endured financial stress throughout the pandemic. However, Black-owned small businesses have disproportionately been impacted. In fact, between February and April of 2020, the House Committee on Small Business found that Black business ownership dropped by 41% — the largest drop across any demographic group.
Based on insights from business leaders who spoke at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Business Solves conference, here’s how communities and organizations are supporting Black-owned businesses in the COVID era and beyond.
Funding Is a Necessity for Many Businesses’ Survival
During the pandemic, especially in the beginning, the majority of non-essential businesses weren’t open and operating — at least not at full capacity.
“You had to close,” said Charles DeBow, executive director of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. “You didn't have a choice, regardless of the state or disposition of your business.”
Fortunately, some focused funding opportunities became available in 2020, like the Coalition to Back Black Business (CBBB) enhancement grants, which helped put Black-owned small businesses on the road to financial recovery.
For Kim Roxie, founder of LAMIK Beauty, the first Black-owned, plain beauty brand to launch on ulta.com, the CBBB grant “reminded [her] that there are other people out there who recognize the importance of your business, and they want to see you survive.”
She added that the enhancement grant goes one step further, ensuring your business doesn’t just survive, but also thrives.
“LAMIK is an amazing product line of vegan clean makeup products, but just because of funding, [I] almost was not able to take advantage of such a life-changing opportunity for my company,” she said. “That should not be the hindrance for me. If I have an amazing company, I should have access to capital.”
Community Support Is Crucial for Black-Owned Businesses
While financial help and funding are important for Black-owned businesses to grow and recover from the pandemic, community support is just as crucial.
DeBow used the metaphor of just getting a life vest versus having someone there to help you get out of the water — “not only pulling you in but drying you off, setting you up, getting you going, [and] being concerned and compassionate and empathetic to your disposition and what you need,” he said.
However, this community support must be consistent and not just a one-time offering when things get rough.
“Keep the same energy that you had post-George Floyd in the pandemic for Black-owned businesses,” said Roxie. “We see the difference it can make, so keep the same energy [and] don't fall off for us.”
Foundations Should Come Forward in Support of Black-Owned Small Businesses
Organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation can play a role in supporting Black-owned businesses, but more organizations must come forward to provide opportunities for this underserved population of entrepreneurs.
One such organization is the AIG Foundation. According to Laura Gallagher, president of AIG Foundation and global head of corporate citizenship at AIG, the foundation’s mission is to offer strategic grants to “organizations that are driving meaningful and measurable change in society,” so they can support a “more sustainable, inclusive, equitable, and secure world.”
“As an ally, we're committed to managing risks and preparing for what's next on our corporate side,” Gallagher said. “We don't want our communities just to survive, and we recognize that small businesses, particularly Black-owned small businesses, really do create that vitality and provide the services needed in order for communities to flourish.”