Photo Credit: Paul Efe
Keys To Helping Your Black Business Owner Friends Level Up, And Stay Up
To put it plainly, it’s never easy to start a business, no matter what the product or service— especially as a Black business owner. If you’ve ever seen Shark Tank, you know how ruthless the process of courting investors or clients can be, and not everybody has the discipline and focus necessary.
Black entrepreneurs in The United States face a particularly daunting set of challenges, many of which can be linked to the nation’s uneven playing field. According to Harvard Business Review, “access to key resources needed for entrepreneurship are unevenly distributed, reinforcing the advantage of certain groups, while impeding the entry and catching up of disadvantaged groups.”
In addition to that, Forbes reports that COVID-19, “decimated small businesses and early stage ventures, especially those owned by women and people of color. Black women sit at this juncture, bearing a disproportionate share of the virus’ impact.”
But come hell or high water, a Black business owner can navigate challenges with the best of them. The drive to find a way is in our DNA, but we can’t go at it alone. If you have a Black friend seeking to start a business, or drum up support for a business they already have, here are some ways you can support them.
Be A Cheerleader
Again, starting a business is difficult, and it can be easy to get discouraged. That’s where you come in as their friend. Be the best hype person you can be, and encourage them to stay on for the long haul. Also, if your friend is constantly burning the midnight oil, suggest they take a breather. Nobody can do their best work when tired.
Suggest A Business Class
Business and financial literacy classes are great for learning how to identify a pain point, draft business plans, budget, build a team (where applicable) and more. Encourage your friend to enroll, and if they aren’t keen on going to a classroom, most institutions offer virtual courses.
Encourage Them To Utilize Social Media
Years ago, advertising could cost a fortune. But social media allows you to promote your product for free. If your friend is an artist, Instagram is probably the best of all the social media platforms because it is image centered. Remind them to include hashtags like #blackart and #supportblackartists, among others. If your friend does a specific kind of art in a certain medium, these should be made into hashtags as well. Encourage them to follow other artists and comment on their work. Your friend should make a business account on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. A website is also a must, and there are ways to do it that won’t break the bank. At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game- the wider the viewership, the greater the likelihood somebody will be interested.
Buying Isn’t The Only Way You Can Support Them
Don’t feel bad if you don’t have the means to buy your friend’s product, especially considering the economic hardship of the past year. Promote it on your social media. Maybe somebody on your Facebook friends list might be interested.
Word of Mouth
If somebody is looking for an editor, and your friend happens to be amazing at that, make an introduction. You could even mention your friend’s skill in casual conversation, like, “I was writing a paper, and it lacked focus, but Ron really helped me get back on track. If you need somebody to edit your work, I highly recommend him.”
When expos are able to resume in person again, offer to help your friend at their booth. Familiarize yourself with their product so that you can talk confidently about it with attendants, when your friend is away. If you aren’t able to do that, make an appearance as a guest.
Take Their Class And Document It
Even if you can’t attend your friend’s dance class often, it will really lift their spirits to see you there. If you can, take pictures, post them online and remember to tag and give plenty of praise to the instructor!