by Irene Maslowski
National Black Business Month was initiated in 2004 by John William Templeton, president and executive editor of the scholarly publishing company, eAccess Corp, and engineering executive, Frederick E. Jordan, who was unable to obtain financing for his San Francisco-based business. Together, they shared a goal to drive policy change affecting African American entrepreneurs, seeking greater equity and inclusion.
The history of Black-owned businesses in the United States harkens back to the 1700s, when free – and even enslaved – African Americans opened small businesses, which then grew significantly after emancipation. The period between 1900-1930 was known as the ‘golden age’ when the growth of Black-owned businesses doubled. Today, those numbers have risen to approximately 3.12 million, generating $206 billion in revenue.
However, those figures only represent 2.4% of the nation’s businesses, while white-owned businesses account for 86.5%, even though Blacks represent 12.8% of the population. According to John Harmon, Sr., founder, CEO and president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ), 16% of small businesses in New Jersey are Black-owned (80,000) in a state where 1.19 million African Americans reside.
“There are several reasons why there is such a disparity and systemic challenges, such as the absence of capital, funding opportunities, being a first-generation entrepreneur – and more importantly – the public sector’s lack of policy and commitment to diversity,” Harmon remarks.
New Jersey has been slow to establish diversity goals, particularly in ensuring that money is available for public contracts, unlike New York, which currently has a set aside of $3.2 billion.
According to Harmon, the COVID-19 pandemic decimated many Black-owned businesses in New Jersey. Over 41% did not re-open due to state mandates, health issues, and a lack of capital, in spite of the stimulus programs.
The social justice movement, and the death of George Floyd, abruptly created an awareness of the disparities that exist. Corporations, non-profits, mid-sized businesses, and banks reached out to the Chamber, asking how it could help bridge the gap and open more opportunities for Black-owned businesses.
Read the full article here.