Black History Month might be over, but Black entrepreneurs are worthy of recognition year-round. Here are some tips on how journalists can continue to support Black-owned businesses through their day-to-day reporting.
Be part of the solution to closing the funding gap
Renee King is the owner of the crowdfunding website Fund Black Founders. She started the site after she had difficulty securing funding for her startup and realized that other Black founders, even those who were further along in their business, were having the same struggles. Her website allows Black entrepreneurs to run campaigns to raise capital for their businesses, and her company provides business coaching sessions.
Part of the reason Black entrepreneurs have difficulty in obtaining funding is through the wealth gap that has been exacerbated by centuries of systemic racism. Black founders often have less access to funding from family and friends, a racial wealth gap documented in numerous articles. However, King said, journalists need to go beyond providing statistics: the media should put that data into context and help find solutions to the underlying issues. She wants more followup on corporations that made commitments to the Black community after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and racial disparity awareness in 2020.
To help keep these corporations accountable, check to see which ones in your local area made a pledge, and reach out to them to see if they’re on track with fulfilling their promise.
Another way to help is to highlight the businesses whose founders are looking to get funded. There are numerous campaigns on Fund Black Founders, along with other crowdfunding websites such as iFundWomen. You can browse campaigns, locate businesses and entrepreneurs in your city or state and write an article or profile on them.
“Media when it’s done right can be really tremendous for Black entrepreneurs,” said King. “So I think especially when it comes to crowdfunding campaigns, certain press ends up resulting in more people seeing the campaign then the founders getting more backers for their campaigns. That helps fill the funding gaps. Now [that] they have the capital, they can grow.”
Look for additional opportunities for special coverage
The goal is to provide consistent coverage,while seeking more opportunities to create special features in your publication and website. King indicated that she wanted to make National Black Business Month in the month of August more widely known. This celebration was created by Frederick E. Jordan, an entrepreneur who struggled with finding initial funding for his business, and John William Templeton to celebrate Black businesses and entrepreneurs, and recognize their needs for growth.
Small Business Saturday, the Saturday following Black Friday in November, is another time to provide additional coverage for Black-owned small businesses and encourage the public to shop local.
Follow up and build the relationship
Once you make these connections, follow up with stories and invite them to contact you when they have an event they would like you to write about.
Kathi Williams, co-owner of Onyx Sweet Shoppe in Downtown Phoenix, has experienced the power of the press. She said her business got a boost in customers after being interviewed by some local papers and appearing on a local TV broadcast. One interview she did with a local community organization still remains on their website and continues to bring in customers.
Williams says it’s important for the media to go beyond what the business is itself, and discuss more about how the business is contributing to the community and how the entrepreneur is being innovative.
“Get to their real story, past the fluff,” she said. “Ask people ‘why,’ get to their purpose. Not only about the business itself, but really getting into the soul of ‘why.’ I was just just talking with these ladies, and sharing with them that part of our purpose of being here. It’s not just to sell sweets, but it’s actually a touching tribute. A healthy atmosphere, somewhere good and that feels good to this community. Where they can come in and just hang out. Actually sit and enjoy the energy of the world. And that’s our higher purpose, to contribute that way to our immediate society.”
Williams said that not only does exposure matter, but so does the quality of the exposure, what you say about the business, and giving the entrepreneur a platform to speak for themselves.
Tap into your network
As a journalist, you might interview many business people and have connections. If you find that a Black entrepreneur is struggling in some aspect, whether it’s acquiring funding or needing assistance with operating their business, ask the entrepreneur if you can reach out to someone in your network that you feel might be able to help. You can direct them to resources that you’ve found through your own research for your previous work.
It’s understandable that Black business owners will get more calls during Black History Month, but those phone calls and emails shouldn’t taper off come March 1st. Providing consistent coverage to Black businesses and entrepreneurs by documenting successes, their part in shaping the economic landscape of the U.S., and highlighting issues faced such as lack of funding, mentorships, and business education are some of the ways journalists can help black entrepreneurs and their success.