Want to help out a black-owned business? Here's how

As if the economic shutdown from the pandemic wasn't hard enough. Now, many black-owned small business owners may also be dealing with damage from the looting and destruction by some in the protests of the police killing of George Floyd.

Even in normal times, black-owned small businesses often are more vulnerable financially than others, with smaller cash reserves to carry them through in tough times. And now the times couldn't be tougher -- black-owned businesses are in jeopardy on every front.

Want to help? The most obvious and critical way to help them survive, of course, is to buy their products and services. Shop and eat at black-owned establishments, and buy gift cards for your friends and family to spend at your favorite ones.

If you're not sure which businesses are black-owned, there are directories, such as this one from Dobobo. You might also check the list of members at your local black or African-American Chamber of Commerce.

"Now is the time for Americans to demonstrate they really appreciate inclusion. Spend money on less fortunate and disadvantaged businesses, where it can have an immediate impact. Be conscious where you're spending your money," said Kenneth Kelly, chairman of the National Bankers Association, a voice for minority banks aiming to help revitalize economies in underserved areas.

Here are other important ways you can help:

Set up a GoFundMe page

That's what supporters of the popular Sammy's Avenue Eatery in Minneapolis did. "We currently have a GoFundMe set up by the community! I'd suggest others take the initiative to do it because it's soooo hard to ask for money from folks!" said owner Sammy McDowell.

Spread the word

Let people know why the black-owned businesses you support are worth their support, too.

"It's an even more important time to post positive reviews of your experience. The mere fact that people are on their phones so much because they're home, that can drive traffic," said Apollo Woods, who created OKC Black Eats, a marketing platform to bring attention to black-owned restaurants and culinary artists in the Oklahoma City area.

Woods believes video testimonials are the most effective because people can both see and hear your enthusiasm.

Call direct

For restaurants that have takeout and delivery, before automatically ordering through a third-party delivery platform like GrubHub or Seamless, try calling the restaurant directly because it will save the business from paying a portion of their sales in fees.

"They may not have a sophisticated ordering system. But every last one will work their hardest to take your order," Woods said.

Volunteer your services

If you have critical skills that can be useful to a small business -- for example, if you're an electrician, painter or carpenter, or an accountant or lawyer -- ask the owner if there's some way your services might come in handy.

For businesses that sustain damage during the protests, you might volunteer to help with clean up. Or, for example, if you have a glass business, you might offer a new store front window gratis.

"I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. Everyone looked out for each other," Woods said. "Have a good heart."

Provide useful information

Many black-owned small businesses may be in need of financial lifelines for some time as the fallout from coronavirus continues. So let them know whenever you hear of a small business grant or loan program from a state or local government or a private organization.

For instance, the Local Initiatives Support Corp (LISC) has an ongoing small business grant program open to anyone, but the organization has a special interest in supporting minority owners who operate in underserved areas.
And the National Business League, founded by Booker T. Washington in 1900, has created a digital platform for all black-owned businesses to find contracting opportunities, funding opportunities and private and public sector clients looking for suppliers. NBL also will launch a global directory of black-owned businesses that anyone can use.

Both the platform and directory will launch on June 19, known as Juneteenth, which commemorates the ending of slavery.

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