by By Nicole Kenney, NAACP Economic Program Specialist
As I meet and speak with community members from all over the country, I am guaranteed to hear them express concern about the dearth of sustainable black owned businesses. Currently, black owned businesses are vastly underrepresented, accounting for less than 7% of all small owned businesses, even though we account for 13% of the population. African Americans certainly have an entrepreneurial spirit as we are more likely to start a business relative to other racial groups. But, limited access to resources (e.g., capital, clientele, etc.), increase our businesses’ likelihood to close its doors. Research suggests that communities’ generational economic empowerment is linked to entrepreneurial success. Therefore, if we are serious about improving our communities, improving our schools, providing jobs (black businesses are the 2nd highest employer of African Americans after the government), we must advance and strengthen black owned businesses.
Over the weekend, The Nielsen Company released “The State of the African American Consumer”, a groundbreaking report projecting African Americans buying power at 1.1 Trillion dollars annually by 2015. To illustrate how massive this figure is, if African Americans’ purchasing power equated to a country’s GDP, we would be the 16th largest country in the world! What does this mean? Black consumers have more economic power than we may realize. It is important to note that the 1.1 Trillion figure may not necessarily be all cash on hand, as we may be using credit cards and loans to make certain purchases. Also, spending power increases and/or decreases with one’s income. However, as a collective, there is enormous potential for black consumers to leverage our economic power by way of supporting black owned businesses to foster community economic development.
The NAACP and other organizations are constantly advocating for policies to create more opportunities for black owned businesses (e.g., increasing access to capital) to succeed. But, while these organizations are affecting change at an institutional level, I want to highlight how we, as individuals, can foster an environment where more black businesses can thrive. First, we must stop the massive “leakage” of our money out of our communities. Currently, a dollar circulates in Asian communities for a month, in Jewish communities approximately 20 days and white communities 17 days. How long does a dollar circulate in the black community? 6 hours!!! African American buying power is at 1.1 Trillion; and yet only 2 cents of every dollar an African American spends in this country goes to black owned businesses.