August is National Black Business Month, an event launched in 2004 to support and celebrate the tremendous achievements of African American entrepreneurs. “Black businesses are essential to the lifeline of our country’s economy,” said Ron Busby Sr., president and CEO of US Black Chambers. “Our businesses line nearly every major economic street, serving millions of Americans and beyond all walks of life. The impact of these businesses creates economic opportunity, invests in communities, and enhances possibility. The Commemoration of Black Business Month in August plays an important role in spotlighting Black-owned businesses while celebrating their critical standing.”
While public acknowledgment of black-owned businesses is unquestionably necessary and useful, many black entrepreneurs believe that designating a single month for the effort only results in an inauthentic signal of virtue from companies that are ostensibly agree with that. Some top companies, they say, are eager to appear aligned with black founders but provide them with no real support and quickly move on after the month is over.
John William Templeton, one of the founders of Black Business Month and a business journalist, tells Inc. that Black Business Month is not a celebration, but an intervention. In other words, it reminds other companies that it is crucial to try to better understand the plight of black founders and to get involved in supporting them.
Inc. spoke with five black founders to get their thoughts and advice on how to — and how not to — support black-owned businesses this month.
Janeen Uzzell, founder of the National Society of Black Engineers
“The feelings I share about Black Business Month live up to these two words: excitement and questioning. My excitement drives me to bring attention to how many black businesses are solving some of the toughest problems in the world. world. Yet I ask the question, “When will black businesses rise so high that a month-long celebration won’t be necessary?” I continue to yearn for the day when corporate influence and impact women will be so valued and respected that we will celebrate their accomplishments daily.
The best way to improve efforts to help Black-owned businesses beyond Black Business Month is to invest. We need to spend our money in our community and trust the process, decisions and work of black-owned businesses.”
Kiaundra Jackson, founder of Los Angeles-based KW Couples Therapy and licensed marriage and family therapist
“Black Business Month is needed. It’s a time to recognize all the hard work it takes to run a successful black-owned business when brand awareness, capital and other hurdles have made us difficult task. It’s something to be praised and celebrated. I can see why some may see it as a signal of virtue, but would we say the same about Black History Month? Black businesses and en particular black buying power show why Black Business Month is needed. It is needed for the next generation of entrepreneurs/business owners who have a product or service in them that solves a problem the world needs. Even something as simple as a mention, a share or a comment on social media can mean a lot. It can literally change lives and even generations.”
Quentin Vennie, founder of Baltimore-based tea company Equitea
“Black businesses deserve to be recognized like any other business and shouldn’t be set aside for just one month. The hurdles many of us have to jump through and the hurdles we face just to become business owners company are not only different from those of any other people in this country, but are a true testament to our ingenuity, our perseverance and the character of our culture.
There are many racial inequalities in entrepreneurship, but the one that is paramount is access to capital. Black business owners are still at a disadvantage when it comes to being able to access the capital needed to start, grow, or grow a business. By pumping more dollars into Black businesses, we are not only able to help increase the number of Black businesses that become large enough to acquire, but we are also creating opportunities to build generational wealth.”
Lakeysha Hallmon, founder of Atlanta-based e-commerce platform The Village Market
“National Black Business Month is a special time to celebrate, amplify and call attention to more equitable ways to support the visibility and financial viability of Black businesses. It is also a time to raise awareness of economic justice practices and the persistent assertion that Black Amplifying and Supporting Black Business takes a holistic approach – it takes a number of key stakeholders working together strategically and intentionally to ensure Black businesses have access capital, technical assistance, and an equitable path to progress and support.Improvement efforts require sustained effort and focus that survive Black Business Month, allowing Black Business Month to serve as either a launch pad, or as an amplifier of efforts.
Arian Simone, co-founder of Fearless Fund, an Atlanta-based venture fund that invests in businesses owned by women of color
“Black Business Month has become a moment, and that was not the intention. There are a lot of signs of virtue because these commitments were made at a time when big companies wanted to show solidarity without an action plan. This ultimately appears performative with no real intent behind the commitments that have been made. In order to improve these efforts, support must go beyond Black Business Month. Since 2020, there has been a call to action to businesses suggesting that support comes from more funding.Statistics show that Black business funding has declined at a disproportionate rate compared to our Caucasian counterparts.Black businesses were gaining a lot of funding in the early days of the racial reckoning, but now it doesn’t. “It’s not. Increased funding is what will push Black-owned businesses past Black Business Month.”