According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 2.3 million businesses owned by African American entrepreneurs. The numbers showed an encouraging boost from the 1.9 million recorded in 2007. Locally, Atlanta was singled out as the metro area with the highest number of African American-owned firms (176,245) besides New York City. Those numbers are good, but in reflecting on how entrepreneurship impacts communities this Black History Month, we still have a long way to go.
At the time, only 4.2 percent of these firms had employees. Also, while African Americans represent 12 percent of the population, the community only owns two percent of the country’s businesses.
As has been stated many times by others, entrepreneurship can bring wealth, opportunity, and other intangible benefits to communities. Unfortunately, the Metro Atlanta area—as well as the entire country—has some work to do to achieve equality when it comes to business ownership in the African American community.
Nevertheless, one of the best ways to start improving the numbers is by sharing and establishing resources, movements, and organizations that support the flourishing of African American owned businesses.
Without further ado, here is our list of five initiatives and organizations doing this important work this Black History Month and beyond.
WeBuyBlack.com is a global marketplace for African American entrepreneurs to sell products. In the vein of Amazon or Etsy, the platform makes it easy for individuals to find businesses owned by African Americans. Also, since 2018, WeBuyBlack has held a convention in Atlanta, Georgia. The event offers small business workshops, networking opportunities, pitch contests, and panels about the current state of African American entrepreneurship. Keep an eye on the WeBuyBlack convention website for details about the 2020 conference.
This organization is a Metro-Atlanta arm of UGA that offers resources, programming, and courses for minority business owners. In addition to helping entrepreneurs locate sources of capital, the organization also puts on a Minority Business Summit, which guides minority owners on how to grow their business through procurement and connect with other entrepreneurs. Their Prime Development Program helps to train new business owners in working with government entities and larger corporations.
Hosting over 100 activities each year with over 5,000 participants, the Atlanta Black Chambers is looking to increase the influence African American owned-businesses have in the Metro Atlanta area. The organization helps to advocate for and support the establishment and viability of these businesses. Members can join committees based on their industry while also attending practical training and business events. The Atlanta Black Chamber’s website also includes a comprehensive directory of African American-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.
Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon started The Village Market with the phrase “Support is a Verb,” in mind. Hallmon has helped to build one of the most successful and significant platforms for African American-owned businesses to connect to consumers. The market provides education, training, and an opportunity for entrepreneurs to showcase their products at various marketplace events. Companies are said to average $3,000 to $6,000 in sales within five hours of participating in a showcase event. Recently, the Village Market has expanded beyond Atlanta to reach small businesses in 21 states and four countries.
According to Startup Runway, today, underrepresented populations represent 40 percent of startup founders, but only receive five percent of the funding. The initiative, Startup Runway, is looking to change this. The goal of the program is to introduce a minority business owner to their first investor, so the focus here is on early-stage funding. To apply, entrepreneurs can create a profile on the Startup Runway site, add team members, and fill out a questionnaire. Finalists will be judged at the Startup Runway showcase event.
Atlanta Can Continue to Be a Hub for African American Business Success
Atlanta has become an example of how black owned business ownership can flourish across the country. The metro area is only second to New York when it comes to the actual numbers of African Americans who own businesses. However, there is much work to be done. Fortunately, initiatives and organizations like the ones above are changing the figurative —and literal—face of business ownership in Atlanta and across the country.
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This has been a JBF Business Media production.