Advice for Black Business Owners with Dr. Sheila Brooks
As we at SRB Communications celebrate 32 years in business, I would like to pay tribute to Black entrepreneurs across the United States. We are a persistent group of people who have achieved success despite the many obstacles placed in front of us. As a veteran entrepreneur and business owner, I’m often asked, how did I accomplish growing a business to scale with up to 14 employees over the years.
SRB Communications was recently highlighted by renowned columnist, Courtland Milloy, in a Washington Post article titled, “A Black woman hits glass ceiling then breaks ground as her own boss.”
“Among the estimated 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, only 4.2 percent have $1 million or more in annual revenue,” Milloy wrote. “For the roughly 2.7 million businesses owned by Black women, only about 1 percent have annual revenue of $1 million or more. She (Brooks) is in that 1 percent.” SRB reached its first million in business after eight years in business and we’ve had record growth and stability since.
According to U.S. Census data there are 2 million Black businesses in the U.S., but only 134,567 have more than one employee.
There are reasons Black businesses struggle with growth. Milloy wrote in the Washington Post article: “Even among firms with good credit, businesses owned by Black Americans were half as likely as businesses owned by White Americans to receive all the financing they required (24 percent vs. 48 percent), said a study released in February by Goldman Sachs.” Also, white businesses are 30 times less likely to receive government aid.
Here are some lessons I have learned on my journey as a Black women business owner:
- Access to Capital
How do you get the money to start? How do you grow the business beyond one person? It’s best to either use your own savings or borrow from family and friends. Be sure to pay them back. You may need to return to the well again.
- Cash Flow
Banking relationships are important; so are long-term contracts and strategic partnerships. Get the bank loan before you need it.
- Attracting and Retaining Employees
Today’s workforce is much different. While working longer hours to produce excellence and advance our careers was the way before, nowadays, it’s important to give employees flexibility to get the best productivity and to keep them longer, which is not really long at all. When seeking high level experienced employees, I have found success with headhunters and large staffing agencies.
We at SRB would like to celebrate our Black entrepreneurs by providing you with resources that could help you make a difference.
- 10 Ways to Celebrate Black Business Month from SCORE. Suggestions come from 10 Black entrepreneurs, and include: Promote Black business on social media, shop at Black businesses in your community ad invest in Black women businesses.
- 20 Black Business statistics for 2021 from Fundera.com. Among those statistics, 35 percent of Black Businesses owners are women.
- Forbes writer Jared Council, in “Minding my own (Black) business,” highlights some of the magazine’s stories that highlight Black business in. “Black businesses can also be vessels of culture and diversity—from creating spaces that resonate with Black consumers to betting on Black voices and talent. In honor of National Black Business Month, it's worth highlighting some of these stories.”
- 17 Black-owned Businesses to support in Washington, D.C. from Washington.org. “The variety found in the businesses listed below is staggering; some use the African diaspora as diaspora as inspiration, while others are distinctly D.C. Some were founded by D.C. transplants, other by natives to the city. All of them are them are worth your patronage.