“Dreams are lovely but they are just dreams… It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.” – Shonda Rhimes

I’ve often wondered how I can help support and celebrate Black History Month. 

So I turned to our amazing client, Cornelia Shipley, CEO of 3C Consulting, who does diversity, equity, and inclusion work among her consulting, to see how we all can be supportive. 

Cornelia said one of the most important and lasting things everyone can do is support black and minority-owned businesses. According to the Small Business Association, small businesses make up about HALF (48%) of private-sector employment opportunities. These small businesses are an integral part of our economy and our communities and while the number of Black/African American-owned employer firms and businesses is rising steadily, there is still a lot more we can be doing to make sure the number climbs even more and they are able to stay in business.  

Cornelia says “When you think about what it means to support black businesses or small businesses in general, there’s a couple of things you want to do. One is you really want to share what those businesses are up to. When you hear of an opportunity, you want to be able to have the right information to not only recommend, but fully endorse those businesses. And to be able to articulate some sort of business case as to why the person you’re speaking to should spend money with that business. The second thing I would say about supporting small businesses and African American-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, LGBTQ plus businesses, is to recognize that for many of those business owners, they are held to a higher standard, whether they should be or not. Provide some grace, if, and when things go wrong, because things go wrong in everybody’s business. 

To be willing to extend grace when things go wrong and not just throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. If you have a bad customer experience, don’t necessarily take your business from the company, share with them that you had a bad experience and work with them to improve their service or improve the quality of their product. 

The third thing I would say is you want to make sure that not only are you patronizing the business, but that you’re advocating for the business inside your organization. If you’re working with a small business that works with a large organization, a large company, you know, don’t have that business be your best-kept secret, or your secret weapon. Don’t use it, as a business that you’re not going to share and keep to yourself. And then the last thing I would say is refer people who would be good as employees to that business.

Because just like everybody else, small businesses can be struggling with the great recession as well. And they’re looking for really good talent. Small businesses employ many of the people in this country. You know, small business owners make up X percent of employment of the employee population. And so there is real opportunity to grow and develop in a small business. And so don’t think just because it’s not one of the Fortune 1000 that you can’t have a really meaningful career in a small business.”

Everyone’s lives are impacted by Black history, in ways that we may not even be aware of. During this Black History month, make it a point to find and support Black-owned businesses in your community. And remember, Black history is American history!

Looking for other information?

The Small Business Administration also has some great history and resources for Black-owned businesses on its website.