Maggie Anderson and her husband John made a decision to participate in the experiment of “buying black” for a year. This meant, they would only shop with black-owned businesses for an entire year, no matter the need. Maggie received pushback, negative comments and faced a great deal of challenge while pursuing this experiment. However, she counts it all as a blessing to have created so many beautiful relationships along the way. At the end of her year, she wrote a book and has since been in the forefront giving interviews and even a TED Talk (see video below) about the state of the black economy and her experience buying black.
After watching her TED Talk, it was clear that there are quite a few barriers that prevent us from buying from black-owned businesses. These barriers in turn create loss and instability for said businesses. Let’s explore some of the barriers to buying black:
1. Black Communities Don’t See Black Dollars.
The lifespan of a dollar in the Asian American community is 28 days, in the Jewish community the lifespan of a dollar is 19 days and the lifespan in the African-American community is approximately six hours. This means that most black consumers are spending their money with businesses owned by other races. Many young black children don’t typically see business owners who look like them. This is partly due to a lack of businesses and jobs that are created by blacks. Also, in many black neighborhoods, locally-owned shops are owned by races other than African Americans.
2. Black Products Are Not Usually Black-Owned.
Maggie Anderson presented the reality that many of the products used by and marketed primarily to black people are NOT owned by black people. She highlighted that many of the black hair care products that are majorly purchased by blacks, are owned by L’oreal; a company owned, operated, and vended by non-black owners. Out of the 60 KFC chains in and around her current home, while occupied by many black consumers, none of them have black owners. The list continues. Other races have learned how to market to black constituents without using even an ounce of money to pay black advertisers or service providers.
3. Black-Owned Businesses Are Hard to Find.
For the last six months, I have personally been on a mission to shop with as many black-owned businesses as possible. One day in particular, I searched high and low for a black-owned dry cleaners in my community and found one within 15 miles. When I arrived, the sign indicated the business was closed for an hour. I returned a few hours later and still, the sign read the same. As Maggie Anderson pointed out, black owners often run their businesses alone until they generate enough revenue to hire others. This may mean that they have to leave their business unattended for a few hours in cases of emergency or other situations. There is also a challenge in finding black businesses, because we have a hard time knowing where to look and how to look for them.
4. Black-Owned Businesses Are Shutting Down.
One of the most disappointing situations the Anderson’s experienced while buying black for a year was the closing down of businesses they had faithfully patronized. Maggie Anderson shared at least 10 businesses that had closed down within just a few years of the experiment. Even while many are trudging towards the trend of buying black, most black-owned businesses are just not getting enough support to sustain and stay open. With businesses in our communities shutting down, there is a limited number of places to support. Thus, people slowly begin to migrate back to shopping at their local chain businesses or those owned by other races.
5. Black-Owned Businesses Have Negative Stereotypes Attached To Them.
Black businesses have the reputation for having poor customer service. This is due in part to some black business owners not being trained in customer service or given the privilege to obtain knowledge in the area of business development. What is often left out is that many white-owned businesses are plagued with poor customer service as well. Not all black businesses have bad customer service, however, this perception has led many to stray from shopping with them.
Though I’ve listed barriers and challenges to buying black, it’s for the purpose of being aware and strategizing to overcome these obstacles. While it’s challenging, Maggie Anderson and many others have proven that buying with black-owned businesses can be done! There are various ways we can all take part in this challenge. For example, you can…
1. Make a personal commitment to shop with a black-owned business at least once a week.
2. Do research ahead of time to find black-owned businesses that offer the products or services that you use most often so that you’re able to plan ahead.
3. Use resources and tools like Spendefy.com to find amazing black-owned businesses in your city.
4. Support the businesses of your friends and family.
5. Spread the word about black-owned businesses you like with family and friends.
It all matters!
As Maggie Anderson points out in her TED Talk, it’s not about what you can do in a year or even on a grand scale, it’s about the little things that you are able to do every day. Let’s bring our money back into our communities.