With black buying power on track to reach $1.2 trillion in 2015, Chandra R. Thomas of Atlanta, GA, along with two of her friends, found it disturbing that although African Americans are the largest consumers, they aren’t spending money with African American vendors and business owners. In 2003 they established a discussion group primarily for African American professionals, called TalkBLACK. The group hosts two-hour meetings on the first Saturday of each month at a black-owned venue and encourages attendees to purchase at least one item from the menu. “I want to dispel the myth that by supporting black-owned business you’re settling for less quality,” says Thomas.
The 37-year-old freelance journalist provided these four tips to encourage others to support black businesses.
1. Research local black-owned businesses.
You may be surrounded by black-owned businesses and not even know it. Find out by asking friends, contact an African American business organization, or casually inquiring at a venue about its ownership. “We also emphasize in meetings that we are looking for black businesses, and people will say ‘I know someone and give a referral,” Thomas says.
2. Make supporting black-owned businesses a priority.
TalkBLACK built the idea of supporting black-owned businesses into its culture, and any time it holds an event, it first looks at options that can benefit black businesses. But you don’t have to start an organization in order to support black-owned business; you can follow TalkBLACK’s lead as a member of any professional group you belong to, or wity your family. Whether you need flowers, tablecloths, or printed invitations, Thomas says, “Organizations should sit down and think about what they need on a regular basis and make a sincere effort to get an African American vendor or business owner to supply it. That should be your first course of action.” Some TalkBLACK members have selected Saturday as the day they patronize only black-owned businesses.
3. Share information with family and friends.
Once you identify black-owned businesses in your community, encourage others to support them too. A few years ago, Thomas sent out an e-mail telling friends to support a black-owned beauty supply store and an emissions center she’d found in her neighborhood. “We need to be an example to others, and we need to spread the word,” she says. “If black-owned businesses go down, it hurts the community.”
4. Don’t be put off by a bad experience.
“Someone can go to a place and have a bad experience and make a sweeping statement like, ‘That’s why I don’t support black businesses.’ I think that’s the wrong attitude,” says Thomas. Instead, she suggests responding to poor service by cordially asking to speak with the management and making a decision based on the outcome.
To read more about TalkBLACK pick up the April 2011 issue of BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine.