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Why Must We Focus On Black Businesses?

While increasingly thriving across North America, Black businesses have long been under the radar regarding their profitability and popularity. This goes back to the days of Black Wall Street in the 19th century, one of America’s best-kept secrets. From the Fourth Avenue District in Alabama to Harlem, many thriving, Black-owned business districts were established out of necessity to serve African-Americans white Americans weren’t serving. Despite enjoying high levels of success, Jim Crow laws confined Black businesses to certain areas in their respective cities. Black people were unaware of these laws and Black businesses were targeted. Some were destroyed, preventing the Black community from developing the entrepreneurial foothold necessary to advance the community.

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In the social media age, it’s easy to find Black businesses and business districts. But, how many of them are there? And, what black-owned business statistics should you be paying attention to in 2021? Here’s why more attention needs to be placed on establishing, funding and frequenting Black businesses and what needs to be done to increase economic growth and stability in Black communities.

How Many Black Businesses are Owned in the U.S.?

The number of Black-owned businesses in North America is concerning.

When you look at the number of Black-owned businesses throughout the United States, it’s hard to ignore the long-term economic impact that systematic, anti-Black racism has caused. America has nearly 12 million businesses, yet, just over 637,000 of them are owned by Black people. The percentage of black-owned businesses in America in 2020 equates to just 5.45%. Well over 42 million Black people live in the U.S., representing nearly 13% of the population.

The numbers are even grimmer when you focus on public companies. A report from the Wall Street Journal states that Black people run only eight out of 3,671 publicly-owned companies. And when you look at Black-owned Fortune 500 companies, there have only been 19 Black CEOs out of the 1,800 that have existed, with only four in CEO roles today.

Black business owners have encountered many challenges over the years. Part of the problem is capital, with many business owners relying on cash, which is a riskier way of financing a business than a loan. Additionally, Black business owners lack accessibility to mentorship and peer networks and have fewer family connections to start businesses than their white counterparts.

What is the Largest Black-Owned Business?

The biggest Black-owned business in North America is World Wide Technology, headed by David L. Stewart. Founded in 1990, the company provides various supply-chain technologies to several Fortune 500 companies, offering IT and software solutions. They have worked with Microsoft, the United States Air Force and Boeing, among several others.

What Companies are Black-Owned in Canada?

There are thousands of Black-owned businesses across Canada.

Though Canada has a Black population of around 1.2 million people, a survey from Black in Canada detailed that only 2,000 Black-owned businesses of a significant scale exist nationwide. In Canada, compared to the United States, the number is significantly lower. Much like the United States, Black Canadians struggle with mentorship accessibility. There’s also a funding gap that is emblematic of systematic constraints that have been exposed further by the pandemic.

That said, there are many Black businesses across various industries that you can find. From clothing stores like 199Z and the Get Fresh Company to jewelry designers like KRWND, there are hundreds of Black businesses across Toronto and nationwide that you can support.

Furthermore, initiatives have been set up to create a national business directory so more Black-owned businesses can feature their services and contact information.

A List of Black-Owned Businesses

When looking for in some of North America’s biggest cities, here is a list of black-owned businesses to consider:

  • Toronto - A Different Booklist: Is a Black-owned bookstore that predominantly features books from the African-Caribbean community.

  • New York - HealHaus: This Brooklyn-based center promotes wellness for people of color, including Yoga classes, meditation and more.

  • Atlanta - the Beehive: It features various independent designers from across the state, offering apparel, jewelry, food items and more.

  • Los Angeles - Gloveworx: A Santa Monica Boulevard-based entity where Black athletes typically train, featuring high-level coaches ranging from Olympians to former boxing champions.

  • Chicago - Coffee, Hip Hop and Mental Health - Musician Christopher LeMark, founded this initiative after personal battles with depression and social anxiety. The space was created to help Black people with similar issues.

  • Montreal - Six Cinquième - A Black creative agency promoting branding and visual production to change Montreal’s marketing landscape.

How Do I Find and Support Black-Owned Companies?

Black Owned Toronto is a great resource to find Black-owned businesses of all kinds in the Greater Toronto Area. There’s also WeBuyBlack, an extensive global marketplace for Black-owned businesses. And, there’s the Black Business News directory if you want a comprehensive list of companies. These businesses are everywhere. But they require consistent support all-around and the funding and networking necessary to build their brands, and in turn equity for the Black community.

Let’s Have a Tough Convo today about what needs to be done so more Black people are provided clear pathways to becoming owners and can contribute to the economic wellbeing of a thriving Black community.


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