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It’s the thing you’re not supposed to think —let alone say —as a proud black person. And it’s also the thing we all know, but would rather not discuss. That as a black woman you will likely be faced with a moment, a choice, or a situation in which your blackness will be a consideration, whether directly or indirectly.
It’s probably not surprising to hear that the staff here at The Black Women’s Guide (BWG) is comprised entirely of women of color (Woot! Woot!) And so, when this topic arose during one of our full-staff meetings about whether or not to identify as a black-owned business, we each had our own point of view on the matter. Not everyone on the team is an entrepreneur, but we are all women in the work force. We have all experienced what it's like to be treated differently because of our skin color. Whether it’s a comment about our hair, or the suspicion that our failure to secure a job interview is because the name on our resume identified our ethnicity to potential employers, each one of us have experienced our fair share of skeptics.
But when I first came across this article in the Chicago Tribune titled “When building your business means hiding that it’s black-owned” by Cheryl V. Jackson, my inner black panther was enraged! And yet, a small part of me (or maybe a larger part of me than I would like to admit) was curious, to say the least.
The article explores the reasoning behind several black entrepreneurs who “feel compelled to conceal the fact that their businesses are black-owned for fear they will lose patronage — either to misperceptions that the products or services are only for blacks, or to racial biases on the part of potential users.”
While we may not like the idea of having to hide who we are — especially the color of our skin —in order to succeed in our businesses, the reality is that this is a very real concern.
Several of the interviewees had gone so far as to remove any pictures of them or their families from their websites, and to refer to themselves as a “project manager” rather than the owner when meeting potential clients. One of the interviewees postured: “The idea in any tech startup is to grow it, make a lot of money and dump it for more money […] As soon as you say it's black-owned, white people will believe it's only for black people, and black people will look for something wrong with it.”
You may or may not agree with this statement, but you can probably understand where this entrepreneur is coming from.
As you begin the process of growing your small business, the way in which you advertise yourself and your company will be an obvious consideration, and your decision of whether or not to divulge or even promote yourself as a black woman entrepreneur will be one of those questions.
Obviously if your business happens to sell Afrocentric products or provides services geared more specifically to African Americans, this will be less of a consideration for you. But if your business is more- shall we say- racially neutral, perhaps you can relate.
So, let us know: Have you ever felt your race affected your business’s success? Do you promote your business as black-owned? We at the BWG would love to hear your stories and experiences!