Quick recap from the first post in this series:
Building up the capital and wealth within our own community is the only way we can truly prosper and use our tremendous buying power to invest back into ourselves…
When it comes to black people supporting black-owned businesses, a New York Timesarticle stated:
Blacks spend less money in black-owned businesses than other racial and ethnic groups spend in businesses owned by members of their groups, including Hispanics and Asians. A report by Nielsen and Essence estimates that black buying power will reach $1.3 trillion in the next few years, yet only a tiny fraction of that money is spent at black-owned businesses.
Unfortunately, the Times’ article is not surprising. It’s not a rare thing to hear complaints from black customers patronizing black-owned businesses, nor is it rare to hear complaints from black small business owners regarding their black customers. I’ve heard both sides, and as a previous small business owner, I understand concerns of both sides. It’s time for us to get out of our own way, and for business owners to understand patron perspectives and vice versa.
This is the final part of a two-part series of posts dedicated to black business owners and black patrons. This is dedicated to black people patronizing black businesses.
***And let me be clear, there are plenty black people who go out of their way to support black-owned businesses. This post is for people who may not realize the importance of supporting black-owned businesses, and those who don’t do it for one reason or another.***
Black customers need to understand the following from Black business owners:
Black-owned does not mean cheap
For some odd reason, I think some people associate “black-owned” with lower quality. That’s unfair, and it’s ridiculous. You don’t want the world looking at you like a second-class citizen because you’re black, so don’t pass that same judgement on businesses because their black-owned. Be realistic, there are not many small businesses, let alone black-owned businesses, who can start out competing with the likes of larger businesses. It takes time, money and support (i.e. customers) to help businesses understand what people want and need, and then evolve and develop their offering accordingly. You want to see the black community thrive? Be there to support during the laying of the foundation, don’t just try to show up once the empire is built.
Running a business requires money
Like, the money part isn’t optional. Lights, water, paychecks, rent, it all costs money, meaning,
ain’t no hookup, bih.
There’s a pretty good chance that whenever a small business owner extends a hookup or an unplanned discounted rate to someone they know, they’re losing money. That means, this person, who is trying to eat and trying to create and offer something of value, is losing money and essentially paying you to be in business. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
I fully believe that a lot of times small business owners may need to enter the market at a lower cost to encourage patronage and increase brand awareness. I also believe in the value of brand ambassadors and press kits, which often involve giving away product for the sake of increased brand awareness. What I do not believe in, is ignoring the importance of a return on investment or keeping the lights on just to appease someone whose “support” is actually not very supportive of all.
And another thing (clearly, I’m a little passionate), if you do get a hookup, don’t go off and tell other people you got a hookup so they can go asking for the same thing and further increase the financial burden on a business owner.
Respect black business owners and their businesses
You want to be treated like a respectable, deserving customer, and that’s totally understandable. You should be. But you have to give business owners and their establishments the same respect in return. That means, if you wouldn’t say or do it in Walmart or Target, don’t do it when dealing with a black business. Be polite, pay when you’re supposed to, if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it, don’t make unreasonable requests, etc. etc.
Small businesses don’t have the same ability to provide low costs when they start out. Additionally, people usually start businesses because they’re passionate about and have a talent for a particular thing, which may not necessarily be business. Therefore, when it comes to prices and the way business is done, realize that it takes some figuring out, give constructive feedback in a tactful way, and be patient with businesses as they grow. All the well-established businesses you frequent now had to figure it out in the beginning. And I’m pretty sure you’re not perfect. Show the same patience you’d hope for others to show to you.
Seek out black-owned businesses
Small businesses don’t have huge marketing budgets so you won’t always know that there’s a black-owned business that support your needs. Convenience is important, I get it. But financial growth within our community is crucial to the health and wealth of our future, so spending a little bit more time to find a black-owned alternative is worth it. Even if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you may stumble upon something you can come back to another time, or something you can share and get the word out about. Don’t know where to start? Here a couple of sites that serve as resources to find black-owned businesses (a quick Google search will give you many more). :