Black entrepreneurs are seeking freedom.
In America, business along with home ownership are the most common paths to wealth creation.
However, most black businesses today cannot recreate the “double-duty dollar” of Black Wall Street. They do not have access to the resources and opportunities required to grow. Only four percent of black businesses employ more than one person. Dollars continue to flow one way—out—of black communities.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Durham, April 1958. On the right is John S. Stewart of Mutual Savings and Loan and the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs.
Courtesy The State Archives of North Carolina.
Carolina Times article on the Mutual Savings and Loan Association, 1954. Founder Richard L. McDougald started the business to help African Americans afford to buy their own homes. Through access to trust-worthy loans, black financial institutions increased wealth for black families in Durham. Black families today face discrimination by white home lenders.
Courtesy The Carolina Times
Mechanics and Farmers Bank, with bank founders John Merrick (left) and Dr. Aaron M. Moore (right), 1915. Early on, the bank stated its mission to provide what was needed in the community: “no large loans to a few profiteers, but rather conservative sums to needy farmers and laborers.” This trend continues today, putting black banks in jeopardy. They do not have access to the kind of profit that has allowed mainstream white banks to dominate the market.
Having employees is a sign of business success and wealth creation. Due to a shrinking customer base and a lack of needed capital, the per capita number of black employers in the US declined by twelve percent between 1997 and 2014 alone.
Notice the racial disparity of start-up capital between black and white-owned employer businesses. Access to capital and reliable credit is essential for successful business ownership.
This is one optional background image that customers can choose from among a series of #BankBlack-themed debit cards from OneUnited Bank. OneUnited is the largest black-owned bank in the US. It encourages consumers to move their money to support black banks, stating on their website: “Black Lives Matter. Black Money Matters.”
Courtesy Circle of One Marketing/OneUnited Bank
North Carolina touts increasing numbers of “minority-owned businesses.” Yet, to address the racial wealth gap, these businesses must be able to fully participate in the US economy.
To support the success of this and future generations of entrepreneurs, we must:
People will do business with people they like, and if we don’t go to the same church, if we’re not sitting in the same row, we’re not building the relationships—we don’t even know each other.
Courtesy the Institute
Andrea Harris (right), with former Institute CEO Farad Ali (left) and North Carolina business leader Willie Deese, at a corporate executive networking event for entrepreneurs hosted by the Institute, 2015.
The Institute’s founders started it to help people of color and women-owned businesses identify resources and opportunities in their industry. The Institute’s office is located in the original NC Mutual building in downtown Durham. Listen to her talk about the need for meaningful access to opportunities for entrepreneurs.
But today, I see all these programs and all these entrepreneurial programs and those have been training, you know, and I got this space and it was wonderful, like, hey, oh, that’s wonderful. What is happening with access to opportunity? What are you doing? Are you helping folks to meet and gain access to those networks, where they can have business opportunity. It needs to be targeted. Let’s structure this in such a way that we’re talking about, let’s get these people into spaces, let’s make sure we do that, but of equal importance, let’s make sure they have access to affordable credit. So they can grow their businesses to scale. If you want to make some change, if people want to stay small, then fine, but if they want to grow and be competitive, let’s be clear about that because I can say to some folks when they get into technology and they just want to say, Well, I want to get this contract with X company, you’re not manufacturing a thing. So then you need to have a relationship with the manufacturer. And what is that going to me? So can I get you hooked up with the manufacturer who can do that? Or if you want to do business over here, like I said, with one of these major corporations that’s going to pay you every three months, who’s going to be sensitive enough to that to afford you a line of credit.
Andrea Harris, cont.
So still, we gotta have the C-suite folks that understand the fact that even if you are wealthy, or have financial resources, the quality of your life and the quality of life in this nation is still going to be tied to that of others, because it’s going to cost you more. The negative social consequences of economic isolation will cost you more than investing the right ways on the front end.
We’ve got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in the Tri-State Bank. We want a ‘bank-in’ movement in Memphis…We [must] begin the process of building a greater economic base.