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  • Writer's pictureAshley Wenger

Celebrating National Black Business Month

Updated: Aug 10, 2022

August is National Black Business Month! Established in 2004 by historian John William Templeton and engineer Frederick E. Jordan Sr., National Black Business Month is a celebration of our small business economy. Black entrepreneurs make up the largest subset of People of Color (POC) entrepreneurs in the small business industry. In order to sustain the small business industry buying from Black businesses is key and has become even more critical in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic which affected Black business owners more harshly than their non-Black counterparts. Not-so-fun-fact: over 40% of Black-owned businesses had to close at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

But Covid-19 is not the only barrier that affects Black business owners disproportionately: Their potential for growth and expansion is severely inhibited by the racial wealth gap. Rampant racial discrimination in the U.S. exacerbates already existing systemic barriers that work against Black business owners throughout the business building process (ideate, start-up, sustain, scale, exit). Black businesses don’t have equitable access to capital and funding sources to start and grow their businesses. A look into the entrepreneurial support landscape reveals that the majority of incubation and acceleration programs in the U.S. are led by and geared toward your typical hoodie-wearing, white middle-class tech startup. Few – yet a slowly growing number of – support programs and organizations are launched by and specifically designed for Black entrepreneurs. With little access to support and funding for their businesses, Black entrepreneurs are at a systemic disadvantage to start and grow profitable businesses in our communities. While we work within our ecosystem to break down such barriers, there’s one thing that we as a community and customers can do to support Black businesses in the Shenandoah Valley: We can vote with our dollars.

Buying from Black-owned businesses not only helps the business succeed but allows them to grow and hire more employees benefitting the entire community. Small businesses tend to hire individuals from their own community; when Black businesses grow, unemployment sinks, the tax base increases, and prosperity can start to take root in the community. In the long run, this positive economic growth strengthens the social fabric of our neighborhoods and helps to minimize the racial wealth gap.

3 Ways to Support Black Businesses

  1. It starts with visibility: It’s important for communities to know who the Black businesses around them are, and help promote them. Leave positive reviews, share your purchases on social media, and recommend them to your friends – shout them from the rooftops!

  2. Purchase from Black businesses. Think about your day-to-day purchases – where do you currently shop and can you buy Black instead? Think about where you eat and gather, where your car gets serviced and maintained, where you shop for clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. If you’re an online shopper, check out marketplaces like Kinfolk, Black Business Green Book, We Buy Black.

  3. As a Black business owner, it’s equally important to share resources with Black entrepreneurs. Improve the flow of information in your area by recommending support organizations, business programs, and mentors that can help your fellow business owners. In the Shenandoah Valley, there are a number of incredible organizations that are supporting Black businesses.

Resources for Black entrepreneurs in the Valley

B-Cubed is a partnership between the Chamber, the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, Harrisonburg Economic Development, and Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, which seeks to encourage increasing investment from existing Black and Brown businesses within the Harrisonburg-Rockingham metro area. B-Cubed also strives to create a welcoming culture that will attract new Black and Brown-owned business ventures to locate within the Rockingham community. B-Cubed blends a combination of networking support and comprehensive business support such as business plan development, marketing guidance, technical assistance, micro-grants, and mentorship.

The RISE Organization creates a safe space for community and learning. Founded in 2017, Chanda McGuffin and Sharon Fritz set out to be “a vehicle for giving voice to the voiceless, strength to the weak, and support for the lost within the Black community”. RISE aims to give hope back to the Black community. Beyond supporting Black entrepreneurs, RISE race relations, diversity training, conflict resolution, and team building workshops.

Grow Waynesboro launched in 2016 as an initiative to find, fund, and support the community’s newest entrepreneurs. The organization helps entrepreneurs through all phases of the business life cycle, and creates a community of entrepreneurship in the city of Waynesboro. Grow Waynesboro has an A-Z guide for starting a business, specific to the city of Waynesboro, and provides a list of local business resources. As part of the ongoing efforts to chronicle and celebrate the local economy, Grow Waynesboro also compiled profiles of successful entrepreneurs at the Meet the Entrepreneurs page, enabling the community to learn from and be inspired by the amazing business owners who are already growing and vitalizing Waynesboro’s local economy.

The Harry Lee & Eliza Bannister Walker Entrepreneurship Program (“The Walker Program”) was established in August 2020 to provide training, funding, and community support for Black-owned businesses in Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge county. The Walker Program offers business development, professional training in small business management, grant funding, and ongoing support for new and expanding businesses owned by people of color in Rockbridge county.

Community Navigator is designed to amplify the work of existing entrepreneurial support organizations that are already positively impacting women and BIPOC entrepreneurs in the Shenandoah Valley. Over the course of two years, the Community Navigator pilot program will magnify the ecosystem of entrepreneurial support and engagement that has begun to position the region as a leader of rural entrepreneurship in the Commonwealth.

The Virginia Small Business Development Center has a list of resources for SBA funding programs, webinars, and development agencies to support minority-owned and Black-owned small businesses.

Celebrating Black Businesses in the Shenandoah Valley

There are so many incredible Black-owned businesses in the Valley. From restaurants and barber shops, manufacturers and artisans, and everything in between, there’s no shortage of amazing Black entrepreneurs to support. Over the next month, we will be highlighting Black entrepreneurs and their businesses. We encourage you to support your local Black businesses and share their work with your network. Try to shop at Black businesses, or shouting them out on social media is just as powerful! If you share a local Black business on social media, hashtag #SupportBlackBusiness.

This week, check out this article by the Northern Virginia Daily highlighting Startup Shenandoah Valley (S2V) alum A.D. Carter from Strasburg, VA.


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