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Getting Support as a Black Business in Detroit

Author Angela T. Jones talks the do's and don'ts of being a Black business owner in the Motor City

When it comes to business, Black business owners can be insane: Doing the same things the same way but expecting different results.

An online presence matters—if not more than a brick-and-mortar store—in today's digital age. Yet many Black-owned businesses still don't have a functioning website; social media platforms are used to complain about lack of support and opportunity instead of networking; and most "businesses" have progressed about as far as when they were first started—nowhere.

The tools to have a successful business do exist in our city, but they aren't being used consistently or wisely. Opportunities are available, but they aren't being sought after, researched or developed. The money is there, but the focus to acquire it is singular instead of diverse.

In 2008, I started my company, Super Woman Productions and Publishing, with dreams of becoming a published author.

On the road to establishing my business, I've had a lot of dealings with other Black business owners. Some of the experiences were positive. Some experiences were negative. But all of the experiences taught me important lessons in what NOT to do as a business.

From dealing with Black business owners, I've learned there is a sense of entitlement that Black business owners have towards the Black community. Many Black business owners feel that Black people should buy from them solely because they are Black, too. When that doesn't happen, hopes are dashed. And the blame for a failing business is chalked up to a perceived lack of support in the Black community.

Fed up with the complaints and the blaming, I wrote my book Breaking Through the Black Ceiling with hopes of opening our community up to some hard truths, such as why more Black consumers spend their dollars with non-Black businesses.

Here are the facts: Blacks have trillions of dollars in buying power. So do Whites, Latinos and the other diverse groups of women and men of other racial makeups. So why, I question, why would solely acquiring Black consumer dollars be a business owner's focus? That's a bad business decision, along with other half-baked business plans—such as reinventing the wheel and going into business to compete with someone else.

If you utilize the tools, processes, technology and skills to acquire all consumer dollars, regardless of race, you wouldn't have to beg for business from people based on the reason that you are the same race.

My book is an attempt to rehabilitate the mindset of Black business owners. And I want my comments here to serve as a call to action.

This month, I want to see Black business owners stop complaining about the lack of support they receive from the Black community and start watching their bottom line increase. I want to see an increase in the use of promotional advertising. I want to see an increase in social media marketing strategies. And most of all, I want to see an increase in every business' sense of responsibility to present itself as a place worthy of consumers of any color.

If we as Black business owners take the lead in developing our enterprises by utilizing and pursuing modern resources and techniques to grow our businesses, then maybe the idea of surviving as a Black business won't seem so insane.

ANGELA T. JONES IS THE DETROIT-BASED AUTHOR AND PUBLISHER OF THE BOOK BREAKING THROUGH THE BLACK CEILING.

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