The state of local Black business as National Black Business Month begins

Black chamber chair sees growth in the business landscape, yet is skeptical about the data.

August kicks off National Black Business Month to recognize and promote the brands that wow us with quality experiences while focusing attention on the needs of Black entrepreneurs.

Creators Frederick E. Jordan and John William Templeton began the annual recognition in 2003 in California, but it has since spread to cities across the country. Although I didn’t find any local events centered around Black Business Month, organizations like the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce (CMBCC) and collaboratives like Charlotte Business Resources are some of the best resources that you might not have known existed.

Since January, Shante Williams has served as chair of the Black chamber. But, as the owner of RW Capital Partners — a firm that funds businesses, helps them expand operations and resolve investment disagreements — she knows the highs and lows that many entrepreneurs face. She brings that knowledge to the Black chamber and its “Funding the Legacy” initiative to award microgrants to local businesses. I spoke with Williams about CMBCC and the state of black business in Charlotte.

How does CMBCC offer resources and support for Black entrepreneurs?

CMBCC provides access to capital, educational programming and expanded networks to Black entrepreneurs. Additionally, we advocate for direct support of Black entrepreneurs with local government officials and large corporations.

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How do you view the state of Black business in Charlotte?

The state of Black business is growing. Collectively, we’ve made strides to be seen not just as a consumer base, but as inventors and owners. We encourage those who desire to start a business to find their niche. More investors are seeing the opportunity in doing business with us, and it’s my hope that Black companies will be able to serve as funders to other Black companies. The state of Black business will be stronger once we turn that corner.

In what ways can a person support Black businesses as both a consumer and resource?

When we spend our dollars with Black-owned companies, it helps them become sustainable and move towards becoming anchors in the community. If we’re satisfied with the business, then we should be posting about it online and referring customers to it. Word of mouth is powerful marketing, so we should use it to keep the good businesses around.

Do you believe that access to capital is the leading roadblock to success for Black entrepreneurs?

Getting funders to invest is the roadblock for Black entrepreneurs. I can make sure you know where the bank is and walk you inside. That’s access to capital. It isn’t until the bank gives you the money that it becomes an investment of capital.

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The access-to-capital conversation seems to stop at financial education, literacy and mentoring, especially when we speak about Black business owners. Those are all very important ingredients, but we can’t mentor our way out of needing investment. You need money before you can purchase inventory or hire employees. The conversation needs to move away from access to capital to the deployment of capital. Black entrepreneurs need direct investment, not more programming.

What are some resources that entrepreneurs underutilize?

I’d like to see more collaboration among business owners; it can drive revenue in a very different way. Additionally, entrepreneurs tend to want the free resources and figure it out themselves. You must put skin in the game by reinvesting into your business. Finally, we need to tap into the government organizations beyond contract opportunities.

Can you share information about data trends relating to Black business ownership?

The data I’ve seen about Black businesses is incomplete and unreliable. We need better segmentation and industry-specific data. This research must be conducted at the ground level. We need a sort of Black business census. This would be a large undertaking but very necessary to ensure that we’re able to support these businesses across all industries and address the gaps that exist.

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