Pop Quiz! What is the number one thing that Black entrepreneurs need right now?
It is easy to oversimplify this answer and just say “money”, which is a fact. However, if you lift the hood and dig in deeper – our business owners need more than a quick buck. They need real connections to people who care about growing, scaling, and helping their business survive and thrive. Let’s level set and dig in before I reveal the top ten needs of Black business!
If you didn’t know, I created the Indy Black Businesses Matter program in July 2020 after following the data that suggests 40 percent of Black businesses have permanently closed since the onset of COVID-19.
As a small, yet intentional way to lead from where I sit, I wanted to support Black businesses with my skills and expertise that can improve their marketing and brand awareness. Working with Black Onyx Management, Inc., I was able to launch this program with a greater purpose than just marketing support for small businesses.
Indy Black Businesses Matter is a program focused on storytelling and networking. The primary goal is to support small Black businesses that may get overlooked and use our social capital and investments to help them grow.
By mid-July of 2020, we had 80 Black businesses sign up for our new initiative. It was a beautiful yet overwhelming joy to see the immediate feedback.
Did you check out the logo? By design, it is bright and bold. It encompasses a heart and unity fist, so people know their hearts must be front and center of this effort for us to achieve the equitable outcomes that we seek.
As part of this program, we offer the digital logo for those businesses that have social media, a website, and email to help serve as a self-identified Black business. For those with brick and mortar (about 40 percent of our current businesses), we created a small window cling to help flood the city with love as they place these on their business window to also serve as a Black business identifier.
Logo aside, the heart of this campaign is a two-part storytelling series including a visual profile and podcast. In partnership with the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, we are featuring two businesses every week on the Recorder’s social media channels (Facebook, IG, and Twitter), and their physical paper. These profiles share a professional and personal side of our business leaders so people can learn more about them besides the products and services that they sell.
In December 2018, I created and started hosting a weekly short-form podcast called, The 317 Experience as part of The Exchange (the young professional arm) of the Indianapolis Urban League. 317 stands for 3 key points, one voice in seven minutes or less. Taking this opportunity to evolve the podcast, we now focus on featuring two Black businesses a week and w don’t limit them to seven minutes! Our entrepreneurs are hosting their own episode so we can learn about what is not on their profile or website – like how do they take their coffee? Who inspired their early years? Why did they open their business? What advice would they give to other entrepreneurs? Tune in now to catch the past 28 Black Businesses Matter episodes - The 317 Experience!
I must admit, as much fun as I have creating their visual profiles and hosting the podcasts – my favorite part of this whole movement is the networking series.
Power Shifting Talk is a monthly networking series exclusively for Black businesses. We added this virtual session after learning things such as, 43 percent are not registered with the City or State, 42 percent need website support and 58 percent need social media help – likely why it is so challenging to find and support Black businesses because their digital presence is not great.
We use these sessions to introduce our businesses to leaders across the city who have power, knowledge, and resources to help business development and growth. We listen, but we also teach. We host these the fourth Wednesday of the month and kicked off in late July with Angela Smith Jones, who was Deputy Mayor at the time and extremely instrumental in helping us get our information to Black businesses. She focused on economic development and how businesses can connect with the City’s plans.
August - Carolyn Mosby with Mid-States Minority Supplier Development Council hosted a session about the value of certification and how to work directly with corporations that have supplier diversity programs.
September - Camille Blunt with the Office of Minority and Women Business Development hosted a session about City certification and what positive changes are happening in her office to support minority businesses.
October - Fred Payne with the Department of Workforce Development will focus on navigating State resources.
November - Faith McKinney an author and executive producer will focus on the art of self-promotion.
December - We are looking for someone to close out the year – could it be you? Check out the needs below!
Wanting to learn more about the gaps and roadblocks that our businesses face, we conducted a brief survey to go beyond websites and social media – although that is still a significant need.
Which leads us back to my original question. What is the number one thing that Black entrepreneurs need right now?
Top ten things we heard from Black entrepreneurs.
Access to capital (small grants superseded low-interest loans)
Access to information
Photography & Videography support
Affordable Leasing opportunities
One-stop-shop list of bidding opportunities (City and State)
Workshop and training opportunities
Money/resources for their employees
Mentor or coach
Some of these may not shock you but may have you asking – what can I do to help? Access to capital is a systemic and relational issue. How can we build better relationships with banks, the City, State, chambers of commerce, and philanthropic arms? Access to information seems like a simple transactional fix - however - placing links to opportunities directly in front of people only solves part of the problem. Who is making the final decisions for the bids, and what other roadblocks like lack of bonding or capacity keep small Black businesses from being selected?
People work with and buy from people and places they know, and we want this marketing effort to turn into consumerism. The culmination of these ten needs means our entrepreneurs are not here for a hobby – they are serious and want to earn your business. How will you support Black businesses?