Why Black People Don't Support Black Owned Businesses and How To Fix That

A dollar spends 28 days circulating in the Asian community; 19 days in the Jewish community; 17 days in predominately WASP communities; and 7 days in Hispanic communities.  A dollar circulates for only 6 hours in the black community.  In other words, when a Black person earns a dollar it is typically not spent with a Black owned business. 99% of our 1.3 Trillion dollar buying power is spent outside of our community. Blacks spend less money in black-owned businesses than other racial and ethnic groups spend in businesses owned by members of their groups.


The Psychology Behind Why We Typically Don't Support

I personally have never heard the statement "That's why I don't support (insert race) businesses" uttered by any other race or group of people other than Blacks. Haven't heard a White, Indian, Asian, Hispanic, Greek, etc utter those combination of words. I've also never heard any other race or group of people claim that they will not or do not support a business that is owned by a person of the same race or group as themselves besides Black people. 

Let's try to understand the underlying foundation for the statement as well as the ramifications of it. Through the merits of slavery, institutional racism, subliminal programming, and ignorance, it has been embedded in our subconscious that we (blacks) are all one. During slavery when one slave was rebellious or disobedient, all slaves were punished. During the fight for desegregation, as Black protesters staged sit-ins in white only establishments many other Blacks not involved were beaten as a result of it.

It's through this behavior that Black people themselves have learned the we are all one unit. As a result we make statements like "He is making all of us look bad" and "This n*gga gonna mess it up for everybody."  Though we consciously don't accept that we are all one, we subconsciously blanket our entire race when it comes to something negative.

Black businesses also seem to suffer from the "we are all one" mentality of black people in the event that a customer is dissatisfied with a product or service being provided by another business. Already being mistrusted and held to a higher standard than any business owned by another race or group, a good business will suffer simply because it is Black owned. The stigma of "That's why I don't support Black businesses" run so deep, that I have heard many other black business owners make the statement as well.

When that statement is made, I ask myself "does this business owner really understand what he/she just said?" I then proceed to point out that he/she is a black business owner and then ask "If you feel this way, why should anyone do business with you?" Believe it or not they debate about why no black owned business other than theirs should be supported. They often believe that their business is different and deserves to stand out above all others. I then ask, "According to you, despite the fact that you provide great service, why should anyone support your business if you are suggesting that no-one should patronize a black business?" It usually takes a while for it to sink in, and even then, their view remains the same.

What's The Deal Then? Why Don't We Just Support Knowing Why?

Glad you asked that. 

Practically, it may be inconvenient.  There may not be many Black-owned businesses near you, whereas there is typically a Target, WalMart or Sears in most communities.  But how many Black people have even looked to see where the closest Black owned businesses are located (and what they sell)?  Even if you found a Black owned business an extra 10-minute drive away, would you frequent it?  On a podcast I've heard, a couple travels all the way to Compton to buy gas from one of the two black-owned gas stations in the country. Maggie Anderson, who wrote the book, Our Black Year, had to travel 35 miles to get to a Black-owned gas station, so she started buying gas cards at the station and using them at stations closer to her.

But even when a Black business isn’t too far to support, why don’t we support it?  Is there a lack of trust?  Do we unconsciously think that Black is inferior? I think about my friend’s Grandmother, a beautiful, feisty, black woman who refused to be seen by black doctors. She thought that white doctors were better trained, better qualified—simply better. Do we immediately think that a Kevan Hall evening gown is inferior to a David Meister; or that a Phat Farm sweatshirt is inferior to a Nike one?

Sadly, it’s been proven repeatedly that Americans generally would prefer to buy from a white vendor than a black one. In a recent study where different races were shown trying to sell an iPod on sites such as Craigslist and Ebay, black sellers got 13% fewer responses to their ads than white sellers overall. And when they did get responses, they got 17% fewer offers to buy. And then even these offers were 2 to 4% lower than the average offer made to a white seller.

Some say that they don’t frequent black businesses because they receive poor treatment from black proprietors. Do we lack professionalism? Are we too comfortable with each other, so we provide less than professional service?  For instance, when you have an appointment at white service provider, they usually see you at the scheduled time. Oftentimes, black proprietors seem to have an automatic “ish” at the end of your appointment time. “I’ll see you at 11-ish.”

Others have said that sometimes service is given with a side of bad attitude.  True?  And if so, do black business owners treat Black customers poorly because they too are treated poorly (people always expecting a “hook-up”, showing up late for appointments, not paying fully or punctually).  At the same time, have you ever received poor customer service at a non-black business, but still returned. Are we less forgiving to Black people?

5 Recommendations To "Black Owned" Businesses

Don't Plaster "Black Owned" All Over Your Stuff

I get it. You're proud of your accomplishment. And you should be. You want the whole community to know. However, be the owner of the business that HAPPENS to be black and NOT the black owned business. Think about it for a second. Would you walk into Walmart if it had "White Owned" written all across the title and bio? No you wouldn't. You're missing out on a lot of money by doing that. Give people the chance to enjoy your services and products without tying your skin color into it. Make people email you and ask if it's black owned. Peak their curiosity. A business is a business, REGARDLESS, of the color of the owner. You'll notice that a lot of "black owned" businesses that are successful on a grand scale don't do that. Neither should you.

Provide Excellent Customer Service

Sometimes, it can be very easy to be petty with your customers when things go wrong. After all, this is your baby, your pride and joy. Any disparaging remark about your business will have you ready to fight. I highly recommend you stay away from that course of action. Your reputation is EVERYTHING in business. Take care of your customers within reason. They just helped you find a problem in your business model. One that you didn't notice and can fix. They are giving you a chance to correct a wrong. They invested into you, which is the ultimate gesture of trust. Make sure they don't regret it. 

Charge Reasonable Prices The First Time

I've recently saw a post where a lot of black people believe that black owned businesses charge far too much on their products. Two reasons for that. One, they believe since this is a black owned business, they can get some kind of discount (hook up). This goes back into what I was saying about plastering "Black Owned" on everything, the stigma of thinking lower value when black people see "black owned", and feeds into my point about charging reasonable prices the first time. Discounts are great when the product's prices are high, but not when they are reasonable.

Two, there are black businesses that know very little about how revenue, costs and profit work. Some may be trying to get a high pay day to live that lifestyle, then you have real business owners who simply want to grow the business to serve more people. Either way, if you must charge high because the expenses are high, I recommend you find a way to make the same quality products with less expensive materials. With great marketing, you can make that work a lot better. Customers will appreciate and respect reasonable prices. But when you're trying to charge $65 for a tshirt just like Black Pyramid (Chris Brown's company) and not have the reputation like they have (celebrity-hood), you'll find yourself out of business sooner rather than later. 


So if you have a service type business, always be on time with your appointments. When you say you'll be there at 10:30am, you had better be pulling up at 10:20am at least. This is your shot to prove your professionalism. Also hold that same standard with your customers. And when you're on time, provide excellent service. When you do lack luster work, don't be surprised when your pay is lack luster. You won't be able to get away with that like you would working for somebody else. This is YOUR reputation and they're not paying your boss, they're paying YOU. So always bring your A game. 

Don't Betray Your Customer's Trust

Meaning, if someone pays you a deposit or pays upfront, don't go MIA or disappear on them. That will tank your business reputation, and quite frankly, your reputation as a human being. Keep them updated and do the job that they paid you to do. Don't procrastinate, no excuses, just do the work. They won't care if things come up nor should they. Either you can do the work or refund their money and point them in a better direction. 


Quick Helpful Tip: Start a website. They are cost effective and far more efficient. 

Just as you are an individual, each business with black owners are unique. They are not all the same. They do not all have terrible customer service, nor are they all cutting corners when it comes to operating as a respectable business. You will have some good experiences with businesses that have black owners and you will have some bad. That's not an excuse though. If you don't like how they do business, move on to the next one. You'll find the right match.

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