Small businesses aren’t a novel concept in the U.S. They’re the lifeblood of our country and communities. However, for many historically underrepresented groups like the Black community, entrepreneurship isn’t just about offering employment.
Since we’re currently in the middle of Black History Month, it’s the perfect time to remind readers that support isn’t solely about marching or putting up signs in your front yard. Education about Civil Rights leaders is critical because it’s U.S. history — not just Black history. But real support also includes putting your money where your mouth is.
What is Black History Month?
Most people know that February is Black History Month (BHM for short). But not everyone may know the story of its origins.
What’s now a full month started as just a week. Named Negro History Week, the concept was the brainchild of the historian Carter G. Woodson and first began in 1925.
Initially, the week took place in February, the month in which both former President Abraham Lincoln and famous abolitionist Fredrick Douglass celebrated their birthdays. The concept has always centered on education, emphasizing the achievements and contributions of Black Americans.
Negro History Week gained a popular following across the U.S. and expanded beyond the Black community by the late 1950s. By 1976, the week had officially transformed into a month-long acknowledgment and celebration — the same year as the nation’s bicentennial.
Black American contributions and stories remain a central focus during Black History Month. But during this century, an emphasis on supporting Black-owned businesses has emerged. This evolution highlights the desire to support a community that literally and figuratively helped build our nation.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of communities
We’re not here to give you an economics lesson. However, the surrounding communities reap the benefits when people infuse money into local businesses. This is true for any community.
Yet, when we look at many communities of color that have been historically disadvantaged by systemically racist practices like redlining (that still continue to this day), money received by small business owners is later circulated within the community.
This helps other community businesses flourish. More importantly, when these local communities thrive, that money later circulates beyond the initial circle — making it a win for the nation at large, too.
Real support translates to financial support
Don’t get us wrong. Acknowledging the accomplishments of greats like Martin Luther King, Jr. and, yes, even President Barack Obama is worthy. But real support comes through financial allocation.
Historically, Black business owners across genders have experienced unequal access to financial capital through traditional methods such as bank lenders and independent investors. This frustration became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s always been there.
This means that before a brand like Shea Moisture could attract Unilever for a massive buyout, the company relied on loyal, local consumers to support the business. So, if you want to show solidarity with the Black community, buy that product or book that service from your preferred Black-owned brand(s).
No one is saying you need to support a subpar business solely because the owner is Black. But let’s also not assume that just because the owner is Black, they’re not as qualified or capable as a non-Black counterpart.
Whether you’re looking for an accountant, makeup artist, or a local barista, don’t let someone’s skin color stop you from supporting their business.
The idea of owning a business may not seem revolutionary to some. But considering that historically, entrepreneurship was often denied to or snatched from Black Americans, choosing to work for yourself is a politically radical concept for the Black community.
For the Black youth trying to decide what they want to be when they grow up, the mantra “if you can see it, you can be it” is critical. Seeing Black people in positions of power, ownership, and leadership can be incredibly transformative, so let’s show our support.
Support is 24/7, 365 days a year — not just in February
Yes, February is a great time to recognize the accomplishments of Black Americans. Hopefully, you’ll dig deeper into the history and achievements of George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
But supporting an inclusive American Dream means truly being unbiased when you look for small business services.
So, don’t shy away from supporting small businesses year-round. Whether it’s Pat McGrath Labs or your local coffee shop, Black-owned businesses deserve your patronage and advocacy.