How to support Black entrepreneurs and celebrate Juneteenth
Juneteenth, officially a federal holiday as of 2021, is quickly approaching and many small businesses will be observing it for the first time. Whether Juneteenth is near and dear to your heart or you’re just beginning to learn about it, honoring the holiday (and the history behind it) can help you make a positive impact on your community. Read on for tips that will help you appreciate and celebrate the holiday and support Black-owned businesses all year long.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally-celebrated commemoration marking the end of slavery in the United States. Observed each year on June 19, Juneteenth originated in Texas in 1865 — around 2.5 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation — and became a federal holiday in 2021.
According to Juneteenth.com, the holiday “celebrates African-American freedom and achievement while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures.” A time for “reflection and rejoicing,” celebrations come in all shapes and sizes, but Juneteenth is often honored with parades, street fairs, picnics and gatherings.
Give staff a paid day off: Non-essential offices for federal government employees will be closed for Juneteenth and all staff will receive their regular compensation, of course, but if you have a small business, consider giving your team a paid holiday for Juneteenth.
Participate in local Juneteenth events: Whether your city is hosting a Juneteenth concert, parade, seminar or cook-out, grab your family, friends and staff and show up in support. If you’re planning ahead, you can also check to see if there are opportunities to serve as a sponsor of a Juneteenth event. You can also invite your employees to volunteer with a Black-led organization or to promote and attend Junteenth events in your area.
Provide digital support to Black-owned businesses: See a Black-owned business announcing their grand opening, expanding their hours or hosting a big sale? Give them a shoutout on your business’ social media channels and encourage your customers not to miss out!
Source Black-owned products and services to display in your business: Reach out to Black entrepreneurs and artists for collaboration, then share their available offerings with your customers through a thoughtful display inside your store.
Make a donation: Pledge to make a monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly donation to an organization that supports Black communities. In an effort to “advance racial equity and mobilize positive action for Black lives,” Giving Gap makes it easy to donate quickly and securely to a growing list of organizations.
It’s also important to take the time to learn the full history of Juneteenth, and to use your voice to advocate for its recognition in workplaces and schools.
While the holiday itself serves as an opportunity to commemorate its cardinal significance, showing up for Black entrepreneurs and Black-led organizations is important all year long.
The importance of equity for Black-owned businesses
Despite occasional campaigns that seek to drum up awareness and support for Black-owned businesses during special holidays and national observances like Black History Month, Black-owned businesses continue to significantly lag behind others both in number and in earnings.
Closing the gap is going to take more than a once or twice per year effort spurred by a trending holiday. Let’s take a peek at some figures to better understand the disparity between Black-owned businesses and their counterparts.
From keeping taxes within the local circuit to building community identity to diversifying the marketplace, small businesses make a big difference to their communities. The approximately 31.7 million small businesses in the United States provide everything from full-time jobs to fun weekend plans.
Of the 31.7 million small businesses in the US, around 1.1 million are minority-owned. Findings from the US Census Bureau 2020 Annual Business Survey show that only about 134,567 of these companies are Black-owned.
Some studies show that minority-owned businesses may be at a disadvantage compared to other communities. Data from J.P. Morgan Chase Institute indicates small businesses in majority Black or Hispanic communities experience “significantly lower” profitability and cash liquidity — a critical predictor of small business survival and growth — compared to small businesses in majority white communities.
In fact, less than 1% of Black-owned businesses have a median profit margin greater than 20% compared to nearly 40% in majority white areas.
This disparity has been compounded by COVID-19, which caused 41% of Black-owned businesses to shut down (often permanently) compared to 17% of white-owned businesses, despite the outpouring of historic-level support Black-owned businesses received in the spring of 2020.
Rallying around Black-owned brands all year long is critical to:
Promote entrepreneurial equity
Close the racial wealth gap
Boost the economy through job creation
Celebrate Black culture
There’s a reason people say, “You vote with your dollar.” Since consumer spending makes up 70% of economic activity, shoppers have the opportunity to make a powerful impact on the small businesses they patronize and the lives of the people who operate them.
Empowering Black entrepreneurs as a small business owner
As a small business owner in the US, you often already have the resources you need to empower business owners and businesses of color in your community.
Through your network, assets and time, your company can set a precedent to recognize and amplify the value of Black entrepreneurs, which can help their businesses flourish.
Seemingly small actions can have a powerful ripple effect. The support you provide to a Black-owned business now has the potential to impact generations to come, and your commitment to establish this value as a given can inspire others to jump in.
There are countless ways you can create visibility and do your part to ensure equal access to resources for Black entrepreneurs in your community — and many can be implemented today.
How to support Black-owned businesses through your network
The pocket-sized resource that can drive a big impact right now? Your cell phone. Use it to make connections and spread the word about minority-owned brands in your city.
Provide introductions to clients and publications: To elevate the efforts of Black-owned businesses, connect a Black entrepreneur with relevant people from your contact list. These value-added partnerships can build confidence, generate leads and increase PR, which can ultimately save costs or boost revenue and deepen community connections.
Use social media to spread awareness: From your Facebook or Instagram page, you can share Black-owned business’ content in your feed or host a joint live-stream with a Black-owned business in your neighborhood ahead of their next event or sales promotion. If you aren’t familiar with any Black entrepreneurs in your direct network, you can leverage the Black Chamber of Commerce directory to find Black-owned businesses in your area.
Feature Black-owned businesses in your communications: Whether you host a weekly podcast or send a monthly newsletter, give a shoutout to a Black entrepreneur whose business mission and values you believe in. Word-of-mouth marketing is still king!
Ways to champion Black-owned companies with your assets
Throughout your entrepreneurial journey, you’ve probably heard the phrase “time, talent and treasure” once or twice. If word of mouth is king, treasure is aces.
There are numerous ways you can invest in a Black-owned business:
Host a donation drive: Not just during Black History Month or on Juneteenth — a donation drive is valuable for anyone, any time. Let customers know that a certain percentage of profits will go to a local Black-led group.
Do business with Black creators: Need updated product photography or a new website? Want to partner with an influencer to help promote your product or services? Seek Black creatives in your community and provide equitable pay. Prioritizing diverse talent can bolster community relationships, offer new perspectives and serve as a catalyst for innovation.
Write a check: If there is a Black-led group or civil rights organization you particularly align with, consider writing a check to further their mission. To demonstrate your support, you can make a one-time payment or set up a recurring donation.
How to advocate for Black-owned brands with your time
As a small business owner, you make every moment count. After all, there’s a lot to tackle in a day when you’re running a restaurant or operating a retail store. When you take the time to educate yourself about the additional barriers Black and minority-owned business face, and offer a listening ear or a word of advice when asked, you are utilizing one of your most precious resources — and it speaks volumes.
To lend support with your time, you can:
Share personal expertise (and a seat at the table): Throughout your entrepreneurial path, you have probably learned a valuable lesson or participated in a resource-rich workshop. Take the knowledge you gained from those experiences and offer it freely to anyone who can benefit. And don’t forget to tell — and take people to — your favorite Black-owned businesses. Whether it’s your book club crew or a meet-up with other entrepreneurs, recommendations still carry considerable weight in most social circles.
Teach technical skills: You likely leverage some special skills while running your awesome company, like programming, writing, project management or social media marketing. For someone who is working hard to grow their brand or business, these competencies can be invaluable.
Advocate for diversified lending: There are a variety of ways small business owners can seek funding for their businesses, including bank loans, lines of credit, equipment financing and merchant cash advances. However, some studies show Black-owned businesses are at risk for disinvestment and may receive inequitable treatment. To help, you can empower Black entrepreneurs to enter pitch competitions or apply for grants by sending those opportunities their way. You might even be able to take action at local and state levels to request more equitable funding.
There’s so much to learn from the Black entrepreneurial experience, and if you choose to partner with someone from the community to help educate you about inclusion efforts and entrepreneurial equity or to learn about the challenges they may face as a Black entrepreneur, be sure you compensate them fairly for their time.
Other ways small businesses can support Black creatives and employees
While sharing your network, assets and time with Black entrepreneurs are all great steps to affect change for Black businesses, there are additional ways to expand your advocacy.
Take the Fifteen Percent Pledge: In the spring of 2020, founder Aurora James made a post on Instagram tagging some of the world’s largest retail brands and wrote: “We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.” Through this pledge, you can do an audit of your suppliers, vendors and service providers and commit to at least 15% representation for your brand. (Consumers can take this pledge, too, by committing 15% of their monthly budget across various categories to Black-owned businesses.)
Show up for your Black employees: For team retreats, off-site meetings or various opportunities within the community, nominate your Black employees with relevant subject matter expertise to represent your company. Additionally, you can provide mental health resources for your Black employees as an added layer of support; be sure to check with your staff that the materials are useful and meaningful to them.
Finally, there are probably plenty of small businesses you frequent in your community. Whether you’re craving a burger or need to pick up potting soil, you have a great opportunity to seek out Black-owned businesses next door or across town.
How to support Black-owned businesses as a consumer
Newly inspired to dine and shop with Black-owned businesses? We’re here for it!
When you want to take your partner on a date, replace an old door knob, get a haircut or pick up the latest best-selling novel, how do you choose where to go? Do you seek out certain businesses because of their mission and commitment to the community, or is proximity more important to you? Perhaps you pick a business because of their catchy branding or five-star reviews online.
However you choose to patronize a small business, these tiny-but-mighty companies rely on people just like you to keep their doors open — some more so than others.
As an entrepreneur yourself, you know this to be true. With the myriad of bakeries, hardware stores, florists, nail salons and more dotting neighborhoods across the country, consumers have a lot of locally-owned options for their needs. Go one step further and seek out Black-owned local businesses.
After you visit a Black-owned business, there are two steps you can take next:
Log your purchases on My Black Receipt: With a goal to spend $10 million with Black-owned businesses by 2025, those who use My Black Receipt may be delighted to learn that $9.8 million worth of receipts have already been uploaded, and we’re only halfway through 2022. You can keep the momentum going! Whenever you patronize a Black-owned business, post a snapshot of your receipt to the website — this public display of advocacy helps “support Black jobs, Black causes, and Black wealth.”
Leave a review on Yelp, Google and Facebook: Numerous studies show the impact business reviews have on businesses. One study in particular states: “Academic research finds that a one-star increase of a company’s Yelp score leads to a 5% to 9% growth in revenue over a given year.” If reviews beget growth and growth begets prosperity, take a few minutes to write a quick review about your positive experience.
Academic research finds that a one-star increase of a company’s Yelp score leads to a 5% to 9% growth in revenue over a given year.
Beyond the local spots where you grab a latte, pick up a birthday present or get your tires rotated, you can make donations to organizations that support Black communities, like Black Girls Code and Equal Justice Initiative, and attend Black History Month and Juneteenth events. Plus, you can even consider traveling to US-based destinations to learn more about Black history when you’re planning your next trip.
With almost 135,000 Black-owned businesses throughout the US, there are nearly 135,000 opportunities to rally around a Black entrepreneur. And while support is needed during Black History Month and Juneteenth, there’s plenty of meaningful ways to show up for Black-owned businesses at any time of year.
Next time you’re hiring a graphic designer for your new company logo or trying to figure out where to host your best friend’s birthday party, remember the tangible difference your dollars can make.
Commit to being a social and economic ally for Black-owned businesses as a fellow entrepreneur, then put your money (and resources and time) where your mouth is.
Your small business can make a giant impact when you advocate and celebrate Black entrepreneurs and their small businesses from January to December (and every month in between). In fact, there’s nothing small about it.