5 Tips for the Minority Business Owner

Jimmy D. Warren II Commentary

Minority small-business owners took a brutal hit during COVID-19. A June study by University of California, Santa Cruz economist Robert Fairlie showed that from February to April 2020, 41% of Black-owned businesses and 32% of Latino-owned businesses closed.

Minority small businesses hold an important place in history, society and our hearts. They are mom-and-pop restaurants, local barbershops, lawn care specialists and more. Those successful enterprises show what it takes to thrive today as a minority small-business owner.

You Are Your Brand.
One of the great Jay-Z lyrics is, “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man.” It underscores that the businessperson and the business are one and the same. When people patronize your business, they’re buying into your brand.

That’s important in our highly emotional political and social climate. Our society is based on the belief in freedom of speech. But this constitutional right doesn’t come without consequences. Be aware that the political stands you make could reap positive — and negative — effects for your business.

Know Your Community.
For a minority business owner, being involved in your community is a win-win, allowing you to network and reinvest in your neighborhood. Many minority small-business owners struggle because they don’t know how to be involved or feel welcome.

My suggestion: Start where your passion is. It can be as simple as an interest in sports that leads to a local baseball team sponsorship or donating time at a charity event. Whatever your passion, find a way to incorporate the spirit of community into your business

Embrace Online Marketing and a Strong Social Media Presence.
One major lesson from the pandemic is the link between business survival and a strong online presence. As COVID-19 limited in-person interactions, many small-business owners failed because they couldn’t pivot quickly to e-commerce. And having an online presence is bigger than just selling products online. It’s about brand recognition, content creation and customer engagement. Make this a priority.

Get Your Money Right.
Kanye West once said, “La, la, la, la, wait ’til I get my money right.” That’s a key goal for small businesses, too. Minority small businesses are often underserved financially and underbanked; many entrepreneurs run their businesses through smartphone apps like Cash App and Venmo.

There’s a long history of why the minority community is hesitant about banks, from redlining in the housing industry and even recently, when Bank of America last year agreed to a settlement with the Justice Department over discriminatory practices.

So I understand the hesitancy of minorities about doing business with traditional banks. But there’s an unparalleled advantage to forming a relationship with a local bank. By interacting with a banker, you can form a relationship that could lead to a long-term business bond. That bond enables you access to key financial resources you can’t get anywhere else.

Be Engaged in the Political Process.
There’s a story that says Walt Disney once asked a worker at his resort what improvements would raise customer satisfaction. The worker said, “Better carts.” Disney asked how better carts could make for a better customer experience, and the worker said that by improving the old, hard-to-move carts, he could clean rooms faster, improving customer satisfaction and staff morale. The story shows that by sharing your thoughts and opinions with influential people, you can effect meaningful change. Don’t like the way restaurant goods are taxed? Need the streets in front of your business paved? Understanding the political landscape gives you a straight line to people who can help your business.

Being involved in the political process is often not a priority in the minority community. But by attending city council meetings, community groups and staying abreast of ballot initiatives, you can provide a meaningful voice in the community. And that’s just good business.


Jimmy D. Warren II is a community engagement officer with The Conductor, an entrepreneurial support organization and public-private partnership between the University of Central Arkansas and Startup Junkie. He’s also a political communication specialist.