As Americans gear up for the holidays, social media campaigns are urging customers to spend money at Black-owned companies to help offset the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus.
Although the pandemic is slamming business owners of all creeds and colors, Black firms have been hit particularly hard. More than 440,000 Black-owned establishments have closed shop for good this year, and more are expected to follow suit.
Supporting Black businesses amounts to a three-step process — all of which can be done from the comfort and safety of home: Find a company, make a purchase, then post a review.
Connecting with Black-owned businesses
People looking for a company to support can turn to sites such as WeBuyBlack, Support Black Owned and Official Black Wall Street. They are among the nation’s largest and best-established places that showcase entrepreneurs of color.
Mandy Bowman, who started Official Black Wall Street five years ago, said she launched the website after watching too many Black-owned businesses in Brooklyn close. Official Black Wall Street lets shoppers select from a nationwide list of companies, including ones that offer child care, event planning and personal training. The site is helping small business owners connect with customers that they may not have attracted otherwise, Bowman said.
Cities including Houston and Chicago have also created local directories. Kathryn Persley, who runs Kansas City’s business listing, said BuyBlackKC.org started as a way to keep money circulating in the Black community, but it has morphed into a broader tourism resource.
“When we have people come here from out of town and they want to support Black businesses, they go on the directory,” Persley said.
Black-owned businesses sell practically anything shoppers are looking for this year — from books, clothes and electronics to food, jewelry and more, Bowman and Persley said. These businesses take online orders and can ship products anywhere, said Gary Cunningham, CEO of Prosperity Now, a nonprofit that pushes for financial security in minority communities.
“These products are just as good or better than anywhere else,” Cunningham said. “For those who say they’re looking to support Black business, this is something concrete and immediate they can do.”
Across social media, shoppers are posting pictures of products they bought from a Black company while using #buyblack, #supportblackbusinesses or #blackbusiness. Those hashtags existed long before 2020, entrepreneurs said, but their usage skyrocketed soon after the Black Lives Matter protests ramped up nationwide following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Shoppers said they feel an increased responsibility to support local businesses this year, according to a recent survey from Union Bank. More than half of the respondents said they’re specifically planning to shop at minority-owned small businesses.
But buying from a Black business isn’t just about a transaction, Persley said. “It gives those companies and their families the ability to sustain themselves in the midst of everything that’s going on.”
Spread the word
Black entrepreneurs encourage satisfied customers to post a positive experience about their company on social media. Many consumers remain leery of shopping at Black-owned businesses, said Ron Busby, president of the U.S. Black Chambers.
“When we provide that positive review, it means the world to that business owner,” Busby said.
Stacy Roberts, who teaches business management at Augusta University, said many Black small businesses can’t afford television commercials and other advertising tactics. Those businesses depend on word-of-mouth advertising in the form of social media posts, she said.
The best social media praise is a Facebook or Twitter post with a picture of the product or business owner, Roberts said.
“Any type of awareness they can get, from people that are trusted, is sorely needed,” Roberts said. “They genuinely need it because it’s like a referral and that’s gold.”