One of the things that limit us in our communities of color is that we don’t share enough praise to those outside of our inner circles especially in the realm of business. It is one of our greatest downfalls. The demand is there, the potential to profit is there, but we are caught up in us vs. them within our communities. If we want to claim and change the tide of the economy we have to meet our businesses halfway. It no longer works to have only Black people supporting Black businesses or Latinx people only supporting Latinxs businesses. Nope, we have to as people of color support people of color in general, we have to create a business and economic block out. We are and have always been the backbone of the economy whether we have wanted to historically or not, so let’s reclaim what we have built by supporting our businesses. Read on to learn what you can do to help make the dollar of color stronger and support at the same time creating bridges between our communities of color.
1. Spread The Word
Something that communities of color have always been good at is having conversations. We talk like nobody’s business, so it’s no wonder that word of mouth that travels in a click of a button when it comes to what we buy into and won’t. One of the best ways to support the dollar of color is to let others know about the legitimate businesses that have products and/or services that people are seeking.
Never be afraid to ask for a few business cards whether they are tangible or intangible. It’s easier to spread the word when you have readable information rather than just guessing when your memory fails you. The next important step is to make sure to share information about businesses that you know of not only people of color but with those that fall outside of POC as well. If you have had great experiences with a company the best praise, you can give them is more business. More business means more profit and more expansion which leads to more power in our economy. When sharing keep in mind the person you are speaking with about a business may not need said business “here in the now,” but they may know someone else that does or may need it in the future. Word of mouth is one of the best marketing and advertising tools that we can use to our advantage in communities of color. It definitely brings to life the old saying "Sharing is caring."
2. Give Some Good Feedback
If you love something about a business make sure that you let it be known. Businesses can only make assumptions at best if they aren’t getting the proper feedback from their clientele. All legit companies have some type of way for you to communicate with the people that are trying to give you what you want. Therefore, use the contact information and share critical feedback. Believe it or not, it’s the most successful businesses that learn what their next power moves are and what works best for their customers’ from their clients’ rather than taking a shot in the dark hoping to hit the target. Good feedback should always let a company, business, or organization know what is or not working for you the consumer. Keep in mind businesses have specific markets that they are marketing to so you may not even recognize that your situation and experience is unique unless you tell them that. Not all good feedback has to be a sunshine-rainbow,-unicorn rave.
Sometimes critical and useful feedback can just be recommending that the packaging be reinforced with something so that the product doesn’t leak everywhere. Or maybe some customer service training needs to be implemented because a few employees are completely missing the mark. Whatever the feedback it should add to the experience to make the business do better. If you don’t have something helpful, useful, or good to say, don’t say anything at all. You’ll end up messing everything up for the rest of us.
3. Stop Asking for A Hookup
Businesses are in the business of making a profit. Businesses can’t make a profit if they are giving discounts to people in every circumstance or giving their products or services away at the drop of a dime. If we expect our minority-owned businesses to support us, we need to support our minority owned businesses, and that means doing so financially. When we ask for freebies in most cases, people are simply asking for something for free just to have something for free with no intentions of purchase or making a commitment for future purchases. When you go into Target and buy shampoos, toothpaste, makeup, etc. you don’t ask for samples you just purchase, so why wouldn’t have the same expectations for our businesses owned by people of color? We as consumers should be a bit mindful in helping our minority businesses succeed and become profitable by allowing them to become healthy competitors the right way. Let’s not forget that it’s an insult to business owners and service providers not to get paid for their time and hard work.
Business owners face many risks; it’s even more so for our Black American business owners, Latinx American business owners, Asian American business owners, Indigenous Native American business owners, and multi-ethnic people of color business owners. It's unfortunate that there’s something riskier when people of color try their hand at running a business versus their white counterparts when trying to succeed in a system where they are not accepted as a mainstream competitor. Heck, if you are just dying for a hookup, let happen through a job opportunity. There are minority owned businesses that could use the extra bodies and minds so offer up your services, then as an employee, and you can respectfully get the perks without coming off as an @ss.
4. Avoid Bad Blood
If you have a bad experience with a company or service provider try to speak to someone that deals with customer service issues to see if they are willing to right a wrong before completely giving up on them and cursing them to damnation. As tempting as it is to make a mountain out of a molehill as a consumer, businesses are a trial and error type of entity. Before you ultimately put businesses owned by people of color on public notice try to communicate as calmly and effectively as you can.
When addressing your concerns about an issue, be sure to give as much detail as possible about the situation as you know it to be true to convey your frustration and asking for a resolution. Most businesses don’t want to lose you as a customer, so they will try to negotiate to the best of their abilities to make a wrong a right. Just don’t get crazy and try to take advantage of the situation otherwise, things will escalate negatively very quick. Where a business is at two years after they began is a huge difference especially when it comes learning the ups and downs of a business and services. We have to give our businesses in communities of color to learn from their mistakes. It’s easy to write a business off after one bad experience. When you have a cool head and time to reflect, give a business one more try to do right by you the customer. After all, they need you the consumer to stay in business.
5. Shop, Buy, Talk, Repeat
Of course, the number one thing that we can do to support businesses and organizations that are run and owned by people of color is to shop with intent to buy. Shopping around implies that you are browsing, making price comparisons, asking questions, etc. Buying is actually making the purchases. Buying is where the real power starts to kick in. The more we buy, the more successful we can expect our businesses to be. By ensuring our minority-owned businesses are successful, we are in essence helping them build a better reputation. As businesses build great reputations, customers get to talking to non-customers about their experiences and what works creating a potential consumer.
As the online marketing increases and political lines are crossed by companies, more and more people are willing to take the risk of trying something new, even when something that falls outside the purview of mainstream buying options. Now is one of the greatest times to convert people from looking at large businesses and to begin seeking out our small and local businesses. Every time we encounter a new business run in our communities of color that are run and owned by people of color we get the opportunity to practice this “Shop, Buy, Talk, Repeat” more often than people believe. We don’t even realize that we are doing it. The more shop around in our communities with the intent to buy the better the chance we have to support our minority-owned businesses.
This list was by no means the be-all and end-all comprehensive list of what we can do to help our minority-owned businesses, but it’s a start. Tell me what else do you think that we can do as consumers to support community of color businesses? If you are a business owner, do you agree or disagree with this list? Leave a comment and share!