As events continue to unfold in our communities from the fallout of Covid-19, social unrest, and sieges on the capital; many of our black-owned businesses are on the brink of extinction. Many minority business owners are facing unheard of challenges and are looking for some relief. In St. Louis City many of our black-owned businesses have been particularly hit hard. It is said that 41 percent of black-owned businesses—some 440,000 enterprises—have been shuttered by COVID-19, compared to just 17 percent of white-owned businesses based on research from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Why is this happening? The disparate racial impact of the virus is deeply rooted in historic and ongoing social and economic injustices. Racial disparities in health status, access to affordable health care, wealth gap, employment, wages, fair housing, income, and poverty all contribute to greater susceptibility to the virus—both economically and physically according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Why we should care. As many know, small businesses and the jobs they create are the very backbone of the United State’s economy and local communities. As the country continues to grapple with the fallout of the pandemic, many black business owners’ patience and resources are being depleted. It is the duty of our economic development community along with our entrepreneurship support organizations to come together to tackle this issue.
What we should do. Many or our local black owned businesses have difficulty navigating the financial and operational challenges of coronavirus while rapidly addressing the needs of their front line workers, customers and suppliers. Economic development practitioners and entrepreneurship support organizations must help these companies outmaneuver uncertainty by helping them with course corrections as circumstances change. They must be taught how to reassess assumptions, re-evaluate scenarios and strengthen their ability to sense and respond.
Ten recommendations on how to make a difference in the black business community:
1. Local government has to include black business retention and growth within their regional strategic plan.
2. Goals must be set for government procurement within the municipality concerning diverse spending with minority firms
3. Include within the city’s supply chain management how diverse suppliers will be engaged
4. Streamline paperwork for minority owned businesses to register their business in the city
5. Form a cross-functional committee to create a strategy for black business growth and retention
6. Develop subcontracting goals for minority businesses
7. Have a proactive approach for black business outreach
8. Provide access to equitable capital for black owned businesses
9. Provide culturally sensitive technical assistance for diverse business audiences
10. Develop targeted educational programs for minority owned businesses that can maximize their chances of success
The pandemic has forced the black business community to reevaluate how core competencies are leveraged, how staff deliver (awesome) customer experiences, where they work, and how online sales can be used to support business continuity and business resiliency.
COVID-19 has changed our minority business community forever. Due to the crisis we have to guide black owned businesses into fundamentally shifting how their consumers buy and how they will do business moving forward.