Even as the nation enters its second recession under the current president, it remains the best of times for black business in America, as African Americans are becoming entrepreneurs at a rapidly increasing rate. According to a report by the Census Bureau, “Survey of Business Owners: Black-Owned Firms: 2002,” from 1997-2002, the number of black-owned businesses in the United States rose 45 percent to 1.2 million, while their combined revenue increased 25 percent to $88.8 billion.
“It’s encouraging to see not just the number, but the sales and receipts of black-owned businesses, growing at such a robust rate, confirming that these firms are among the fastest growing segments of our economy,” said Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon.
By location, New York City had the most black businesses, at 98,076, followed by Chicago (39,424), Los Angeles (25,958), Houston (21,226), and Detroit (19,530). Among states, New York led with 129,324, followed by California (112,873), Florida (102,079), Georgia (90,461) and Texas (88,769). These five states accounted for about 44 percent of all black businesses in the nation. Cook County, Illinois and Los Angeles County, California, had the highest number of businesses in the nation. Cook, with 54,758 black-owned firms, accounted for 80 percent of all black businesses in Illinois. Los Angeles County, with 52,674, accounted for 47 percent of all black businesses in California.
Along with the growth of black businesses has come a corresponding increase in the resources available to them, including organizations, mentoring services, financing bodies, executive coaching agencies, consultants, branding experts, books, journals and websites, among others, that aid entrepreneurs in all facets of their business. So, whether you’re opening a new business, expanding or re-inventing an existing business that is 2-5 years old, for example, or trying to take a more mature business to a new level of growth and revenue, there are countless public and private sector sources and resources for you to tap.
In The Beginning…
When at the starting gate with your new venture, consider the geographic areas and categories in which the growth of black business has taken place, figuring that familiarity breeds success, and you’ll have more opportunities for networking and mentoring in areas already known for success. The Census figures show greatest number of black-owned businesses – 40 percent, in fact – in health care and social assistance. Other categories with a strong black-owned business presence include retail; professional, scientific and technical services; and transportation and warehousing.
The primary resource for business development in America is the federal government’s backbone organization, the Small Business Administration, which was created in 1953 to help Americans start, build and grow businesses. All of the resources and services the SBA offers can be found at www.sba.gov.
An equally important government entity, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency, offers an online system at www.mbda.gov that allows you to register your company with the agency’s database of minority businesses; offers updated information on government contracts and certifications; provides access to business programs that offer keys to entrepreneurial success; and offers helpful online tools for managing your business.
What most businesses need, of course, other than a brilliant idea, is money. One of the best private sector funding sources is Wells Fargo & Company, America’s No. 1 small business lender, which has loaned nearly $35 billion to women, African Americans, Latino and Asian business owners since 1995. In 1998 Wells Fargo set a goal of lending $1 billion to black business owners in 10 years. The company announced this spring that it has reached that goal two years early and will announce another multi-year lending goal later in 2008.
Brenda Ross-Dulan, senior vice president and national spokesperson for Wells Fargo’s African American Business Services Program, noted, “Our celebration of this significant lending milestone is a testimonial to the entrepreneurial vision and success of African-American business owners.” Contact wellsfargo.com/biz or call (800) CALL WELLS.
The purpose of any chamber of commerce is to educate, mentor, unite and empower its business members. To that end, in addition to joining the local chambers in your area, be familiar with the National Black Chamber of Commerce, which provides news and resources to more than 100,000 black businesses. Reach them at www.nationalbcc.org.
Regardless of the age of your business, entrepreneurs always need access to a good accountant. Contact the National Association of Black Accountants Inc. at www.nabainc.org.
Management Guru is an excellent compendium of research articles on black-owned enterprises, and offers an array of links to other major black business websites and publications. Visit www.mgmtguru.com/blackbus.htm.
Getting Technical Assistance
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), the “Counselors To America’s Small Business,” offers free confidential and comprehensive business advice from its retired business experts to current business owners at any point in their business life through counseling, workshops and e-mail. SCORE provides tips on growing your business, marketing in a weak economy, hiring the right people, etc. Visit www.score.org.
The Women’s Business Development Center in Chicago is the Midwest’s leading agency that works with women to launch new businesses and strengthen existing ones by providing everything from assessments and loan packaging to procurement assistance and counseling. Go to www.wbdc.org.
The National Urban League (www.nul.org) also offers entrepreneurial initiatives, including:
The Urban Entrepreneur Partnership (UEP) is designed to expand entrepreneurship and jobs in historically neglected and economically challenged urban areas. The UEP provides business training, enterprise mentoring and coaching, and access to private-sector contacts, procurement, and debt and equity financing nationwide.
The NUL and ExxonMobil have partnered to help identify and attract minority dealers and distributors to own and operate Exxon and Mobil service stations.
Many churches in the black community, particularly the larger or so-called “mega churches,” offer entrepreneurial centers. One of the most extensive black business owner programs is featured at Rev. T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House Church in Dallas. The 12-session “NxLevel Entrepreneur Training Series” has been developed for entrepreneurs who want to develop or expand a new or existing business, and need the skills to make it grow. NxLevel sessions include business plans, market research and analysis, legal and organizational structure, marketing strategies, financial planning, record keeping, cash flow projections, business financing, negotiating deals, and management growth. (Visit www.thepottershouse.org, or more specifically, www.medc-dallas.org, and hit the “projects” tab.)
Businessman Dante Lee, a young entrepreneur who owns the Columbus, Ohio-based Diversity City Media marketing firm, has launched The Black Business Coach (www.BlackBusinessCoach.com) to offer free daily advice, tips and strategies for African American entrepreneurs. “Black-owned businesses are nearly three times as likely to fail than other businesses,” Lee said. “My goal is help black entrepreneurs succeed, and avoid making the critical mistakes.”
James Parker’s www.Go.BlackBiz.com helps black businesses utilize the Internet to not only increase sales, but to position their brands in the global marketplace, hence it’s slogan, “Harnessing the power of the Internet to build and grow businesses.” Call (312) 823-5314.
To help improve your business’ strategic planning, Karyn Pettigrew, chair of the Strategic Planning Committee of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Chicago Chapter, is a resource (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sonya Lowery helps businesses find their “branding magic.” The author of “The Secret Language of Business Cards (And What Your Brochure Is Saying Behind Your Back!),” Lowery runs the Solaris House of Fine Graphics in Greenbelt, Md., and is a specialist in grooming a company’s business image through designs and graphics. Visit solariscorporation.com.
It’s never too early to start a business, and Scott Steward, CEO of Break Bread Marketing and Media (www.webreakbread.com), a multimedia production company and marketing consulting firm, also teaches entrepreneurship at Chicago-area high schools to reach youth. The after-school entrepreneurship educator for the Chicago Urban League also blogs on such topics as the pros and cons of going into business with family and friends.
David Smallwood is Chicago-area freelance writer and editor.
More Online Resources for Business
Regardless of the type of goods or services offered, entrepreneurs stand to benefit in one way or another by accessing resources and advice to start, grow and expand their business. Here are a several sources and resources that can help, courtesy of the World Wide Web:
• www.localgov/rr/business/black/, African American Business Resources, prepared by the
Library of Congress
• Multiple Shades of You Online, “The Black ‘Everything’ Portal for the Best Black
Websites Online,” www.msoyonline.com
• www.Einfonews.com, specializes in e-biz and offers news for business owners
• www.Frasernet.com, website from George Fraser, author of the best-selling
“Success Runs In Our Race”
the daily resource for entrepreneurs
• National Black Business Trade Association, www.nbbta.org