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Last year, when the world was on lockdown and people were gathering in the streets to protest the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, we witnessed the positive change a community can bring. Sparked by the increasing power of the Black Lives Matter movement, everyone on social media came together to voice support for Black-owned businesses. As a result, investors were inspired to help fund more Black-owned businesses and Black women became the fastest growing group of female entrepreneurs in the U.S., according to a report by CNN Business. While this movement does signal a more optimistic future for the African American community, Black entrepreneurs still fall victim to the racial funding gap. To assist in ending this disparity, we asked 5 entrepreneurs to share their wise words on what we can do to support Black businesses in their respective industries.

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Madilynn Beck
Dr. Oni Blackstock
RaShaun Brown
Sonya Smith-Valentine
Denise Woodard

Sonya Smith-Valentine, Esq. Founder & CEO of Financially Fierce

As founder and CEO of Financially Fierce, Sonya Smith-Valentine is well versed in the language of business: finance. After surviving a fatal car accident during law school and then recovering from the surgical removal of a brain tumor, Sonya has proven nothing can hold her back. With a successful career as one of the top African American women in financial litigation, she is now highly sought after for her knowledge as a strategist and consultant. Some of the awards Sonya has garnered over the years include the Black Enterprise Financial All Star, Powerhouse Woman of the Year, and the Women in Finance Power 100.

What is the best way someone can support Black businesses in your industry?

“There are several ways to support Black businesses in my industry. A company can make Black businesses a part of their DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) efforts to have diverse vendors. A company can require larger vendors to have Black businesses as subcontractors in order to qualify for contracts. Individuals can request financial training and recommend Black businesses to their managers, HR, etc.”

Who is someone that does outstanding work to support the Black community?

“Theodore Daniels at the Society for Financial Education and Professional Development.”

Denise Woodard, Founder & CEO of Partake

Denise Woodard is the founder and CEO of Partake, which specializes in making better-for-you, allergy-friendly snacks. When her daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies at a young age, Denise found herself frustrated by the lack of healthy and delicious food options available. She then decided to leave her job as Director of National Sales, Venturing & Emerging Brands at Coca Cola and began selling vegan and gluten-free cookies out of her car. Denise dedicates herself to raising awareness for Black and women-owned businesses by mentoring young and up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

What is the best way someone can support Black businesses in your industry?

“Seek out and buy Black. Share our businesses, reviews and shoutouts of our products, talk about where you’re buying our products—whether they’re from a retailer or our own .com. Make it clear that you’re supporting us because the products are great. Black business is not a charity—it’s good business.”

Who is someone that does outstanding work to support the Black community?

“Target continues to champion diversity and underrepresented founders. What makes their work different is:

  1. They’ve been doing it for years, not just since it’s been en vogue. We attended their Black-owned Business Fair in 2018 where they worked with small businesses, like ours, to help us understand what it takes to be successful working with a large retailer like them.
  2. They also have programs like Target Takeoff that support underrepresented founders in different verticals, without a clear reward for themselves.”

Dr. Oni Blackstock, Founder & CEO of Health Justice

Dr. Oni Blackstock has been an advocate for racial, gender, and LQBTQ+ equity in the healthcare industry for nearly two decades. After earning her Doctor of Medicine from Harvard Medical School in 2005, she went on to serve New York City both as an HIV clinical fellow at Harlem Hospital Center and as an Assistant Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She also led the city’s efforts to end the HIV epidemic as Assistant Commissioner for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In August 2020, Dr. Blackstock founded Health Justice to help health organizations center equity in the workplace and reduce health inequities in their communities where she currently serves as Executive Director.

What is the best way someone can support Black businesses in your industry?

“I’m in the health equity consulting space and it would be helpful to have healthcare and public health organizations prioritize reaching out to Black-led health equity consulting firms when they begin their search for these types of services.”

Who is someone that does outstanding work to support the Black community?

“Kenneth Ebie, the Executive Director & Chief Development Officer of Black Entrepreneurs NYC.”

RaShaun Brown, Cofounder & CEO of KCR Group

After earning his Masters of Sports Administration from Ohio University, RaShaun Brown cofounded KCR Group with his fraternity brothers to innovate the sports market. One of the products they launched is College Emojis, the first licensed college emoji in-text keyboard and licensed augmented reality content that connects and engages passionate college sports fans. He also recently launched Screen Skinz as a cofounder, the first branded proprietary screen protectors in partnership with Canning Creations. RaShaun is also a recent graduate of the Founder Institute Austin Cohort 5 and currently works as the Senior Account Executive for Texas A&M Athletics while growing his startups.

What is the best way someone can support Black businesses in your industry?

“I believe the best way someone can support black businesses in the tech space is to offer resources. I am a black tech founder and new to the industry. If you don’t have the right connections it can be really difficult to navigate, so having access to other founders and programs that teach you how to grow a business (such as Founder Institute) is critical.”

Who is someone that does outstanding work to support the Black community?

“I would like to shoutout Founder Institute and Collab Capital. I was a part of the Founder Institute and I’ve attended a lot of sessions held by Collab Capital to support Black founders. I would also like to spotlight Harold Hughes, Founder of Bandwagon. He goes out of his way to support founders, whether that is one-on-one sessions or hosting countless weekly events on Clubhouse.”

Madilynn Beck, CoFounder & CEO of Fountful

Madilynn Beck is the cofounder and CEO of Fountful, a dual sided marketplace app offering direct-to-consumer lifestyle services. She strives to bring economic freedom and location independence to service industry workers, such as hair stylists and personal chefs, by allowing users to book same-day or future appointments at locations that are convenient to them. Madilynn began her career as an actress and Associate Casting Director in Los Angeles before collecting experiences in a myriad of industries, including marketing, business development, and regional development. She currently works as a marriage and family therapist and will be launching a non-profit arm for Fountful at the end of the month.

What is the best way someone can support Black businesses in your industry?

“I believe the best way to support our (Black) businesses in my industry is, eyes and wallets open. Eyes open speaks to the fact that technology is a crowded space and is only becoming more competitive. Awareness is the first step in bolstering the presence and, subsequently, the success of Blacktech. Consumers and business owners need to begin taking stock of diversity in our space. See a Blacktech founder in an article? Look them up. Come across a Blacktech mention in your feed? Follow them. The more eyes we have on us while we’re climbing, the less likely we are to fall.

“Wallets open just means when purchasing, we often choose one of 3 routes: the easiest, the cheapest, or the highest personal value. Conscious Consumerism requires you to check into things like an equal playing field. Black folks are everywhere. We do everything. If you’re looking to contribute to a changing economy in a positive way, spend your dollars with equally dynamic companies led by womxn, LGTBQIA, and Black and Brown people. If you don’t support equality in capitalism, then stop rockin’ the hashtags elsewhere. Advocacy isn’t a buffet.”

Who is someone that does outstanding work to support the Black community?

“Hue, is a not-for-profit marketing company whose mission is to create equality in brand positioning through the voices behind them by diversifying the cultural landscape of marketing and brand advertising. The talent pool is next level and the attention to hiring practices in client/expert matching shows the dedication to the mission.”

What other wise words do you have for supporting Black businesses? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.