A recent CNBC story entitled, “Why Black-owned businesses are struggling to stay afloat,” provides some sobering statistics:
- Eight out of 10 Black-owned businesses fail within the first 18 months.
- Black-owned businesses declined by 41% between February and April 2020, compared with a 17% decline among White-owned businesses.
The story cites a survey by the Black Chamber of Commerce indicating that approximately 75% of Black-owned small businesses nationwide saw their sales increase in the two months immediately following George Floyd’s murder. However, after that uptick, sales at many of those businesses returned to their pre-COVID levels.
Last year’s Meet Minneapolis “We Need Us” campaign helped to promote small businesses, particularly BIPOC businesses. Business organizations like the Lake Street Council and the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition are on the ground in areas of our community that are rich in BIPOC-owned enterprises. As many as 1,500 of those enterprises were damaged or destroyed during the civil unrest, last summer. So the work these business associations are doing is vital for the survival of these vulnerable businesses.
We have the opportunity to impact change ourselves. It will require intentionally seeking BIPOC businesses in our professional and personal lives. These businesses may not have the benefit of word-of-mouth referrals or the resources to advertise and promote themselves widely. W Minneapolis – The Foshay general manager, Christy Loy, had a home repair project and she wanted to use a Black-owned business. She indicated that it took a bit more time to seek one out, but she was very satisfied with the work completed. To a large company, the project was probably small. But to the Black-owned business Christy located, it was a lifeline.
Minnesota’s population composition may suggest that it is an overwhelming challenge to find qualified diverse candidates. Although the Caucasian population is 82%, success stories abound with companies recruiting diverse candidates. However, there is anecdotal and empirical data to suggest that Black workers who are transplants to the Minneapolis region have a significantly harder time assimilating into the local culture than their white counterparts. This often leads to an exodus of many of those Black workers. While weather may be a contributing factor, it is worth exploring how BIPOC workers are recruited and evaluated for potential employment in the first place.
Implicit bias may cause some employers to ponder questions like:
Will a BIPOC candidate be comfortable in “our” company culture?
By definition, a culture evolves as it expands. So, a new influence should be welcomed and not stifled. Meet Minneapolis has organizational values that are meant to invite diversity: service, collaboration, inclusion, passion and integrity. We have had success in recruiting, retaining and developing our workforce, including our BIPOC team members. Yet, we know we can do more, and we are focused on that as we begin to expand our operation throughout our industry recovery. I urge all our partner businesses to do the same.
We have had a BIPOC employee in the past that did not work out. Should we try it again?
There are myriad reasons why an employment experience may not end as expected. Being BIPOC or any other dimension of diversity should not disqualify future candidates from getting a fair shot at an opportunity. No group of people is monolithic.
Is a particular BIPOC candidate “ready” for the position?
While a certain individual’s educational and professional background may suggest readiness for position, there will always be a learning curve. Are we willing to tolerate a longer learning curve in order to have a broader pool of candidates to consider? That does not mean lowering our standards, just exercising patience. Employers should not look at seeking and evaluating diverse candidates as a polite gesture to demonstrate an inclusive nature. Instead, a diverse viewpoint can be an attribute that is often overlooked as a marketable strength. Most of us can recall a time in our professional lives where we were given an opportunity that may have been a stretch for us, and we rose to the occasion. We should consider doing the same, in order to ensure we have a diverse set of candidates to evaluate.
Much of the conversation surrounding our industry’s recovery centers on returning to normal. In my view, we should strive for more than the previous normal as BIPOC businesses and workers were being marginalized. Let us make it a commitment to activate an inclusive recovery strategy in all we do.