By Alejandra Spruill
Over the course of the semester [at the Community Development Clinic], Stephanie Sabino and I have recognized the variety of opportunities and challenges facing Black owned businesses, not only present in the South Coast area surrounding our university, but throughout the United States. As we gathered information and began crafting a presentation our colleague, Jim Brady, suggested hooking the audience in with statistics–his led me to wonder what the numbers are for Black businesses as the post-pandemic world dawns. Facing numerical realities showed our cohort the pressing need
of the circumstances. The time before the pandemic feels like a colored with a rose-colored haze, although certainly not perfect in the moment it exists immune from the loss and sociopolitical conversion of the 2020s. To better speak to my audience, I had to find numbers that reflect our changing and expanding society.
The COVID-19 pandemic threw life and business as we knew it into new realms, the previous standard has shifted due in no small part to the Black Lives Matter movement. Mostly the numbers are tilting toward Black owned business success in the short term although I believe the key to generational wealth in our community and others is rooted in longevity and sustainability. Unfortunately, it seems like our governmental systems are ill-equipped to support this sector of the population. Only 29% of Black owned businesses which applied for the Trump and subsequently then Biden administration “Paycheck Protection Program” were able to surmount the red tape in place and receive protections from the federal government when compared to 60% of their white counterparts [Footnote 1].
Intervening in the way policy plays out is one place where we as attorneys and future attorneys come in, disparities must be addressed from the root, no monolith is challenged but for the first filing, the first dispute at law, which forces those who might be otherwise powerless (or powerful enough to look away) on notice of the people’s demands. The businesses which have survived the pandemic were Black already, but now that they are labeling themselves as such are they seeing the community support imagined by such labeling? A study from the Annals of the American Association of Geographers in association with University of Washington found that restaurants in 20 major cities which labeled themselves as minority or Black owned are seeing long-term effects of a decrease in business as compared to both pre-pandemic numbers and the surge in interest in labeling which occurred in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 [Footnote 2]. This study uniquely used cell-phone data to track visitation and patronage [Footnote 3].
On the other hand, the number of Black owned businesses is higher than it has ever been before [Footnote 4]. Women are leading the entrepreneurial way, and we at the clinic have seen this across the clients we’ve encountered this semester [Footnote 5]. This explosion in entrepreneurship is coupled with 4.2 million women exiting the traditional workforce since February 2020 [Footnote 6] Pre-pandemic, in 2019, Wells Fargo released data finding that Black women are presently opening 35% of all Black owned business, a figure that is 10% greater than the share female owned businesses have in the American economy as a whole [Footnote 7]. This boom is not occurring in a racial vacuum, among Hispanic and Asian entrepreneurs there is an increase in number of open businesses as compared to before the pandemic [Footnote 8]. Nevertheless, volume alone does not equate to success, and resilience does not pay the bills. Typically recession proof businesses are facing labor shortages, even jobs with the most lucrative and competitive compensation plans these businesses can offer are drawing no applicants [Footnote 9]. And how can you compete when multinational corporations are promising potential managers six figure salaries within a year of hiring [Footnote 10].
Ultimately the further prosperity of Black owned businesses remains to be seen as we embark into the rest of the 2020s, no longer the roaring dream society collectively imagined as this era dawned. It is my sincere hope that through financial literacy, innovation, and community support Black businesses surrounding UMASS will continue to expand and make their mark.
1 Jason Lalljee, BLACK-OWNED BUSINESSES TOOK A PANDEMIC HIT, BUT THEY’RE DOING BETTER THAN EVER NOW- LARGELY BECAUSE OF BLACK WOMEN BUSINESS INSIDER (2022),
2 Kim Eckhart, BLACK-OWNED RESTAURANTS DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTED DURING PANDEMIC UW NEWS
4 Sabrina Lynch, BLACK BUSINESSES ARE BEGINNING THEIR POST-PANDEMIC BOOM UP 38% NASDAQ
6 Jasmine Tucker, WOMEN GAINED 57% OF JOBS ADDED TO THE ECONOMY IN OCTOBER BUT STILL NEED …
7 Lalljee, supra note 1.
8 Lynch, supra note 3.
9 Tracy Jan, AFTER RECESSION, A BLACK BUSINESS BOOM THE WASHINGTON POST