Harnessing the Trillion-Dollar Black Purchasing Power

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Buy Black ExperimentThe collective buying power of Blacks in the United States is expected to hit $1 trillion by 2011, but most of that power will be exercised outside the African-American community if current practice holds true. Detroit natives Margarita “Maggie” Anderson and her husband, John, aim to do something about this.

“If we just start supporting our own, my people might have the economic foundation we need to solve our problems,” says Maggie Anderson, who makes sure that she practices what she preaches.

As part of a year-long Empowerment Experiment, now in its ninth month, the Anderson family, based in Oak Park, Ill., has been purchasing goods, products and services exclusively from Black-owned businesses. They hope to prove that increased economic stability and cultural pride in the African-American community in the long run will counter urban problems disproportionately affecting Blacks. The project has attracted thousands of other families, high profile supporters and significant media attention.

“The most difficult challenge is simply getting started. Whenever people begin the discussion, or even consider buying Black, they preoccupy themselves with every reason not to do it,” Anderson told TNJ.com in an e-mailed statement. “They assume that there are no businesses out there; they recall a bad experience with a Black business; they assume they will have to travel too far; then they are so far along the discussion of why it cannot be done, that they’ve left the issue about why it absolutely must be done.  That’s where most of our people get stuck and that’s why nothing changes for us.”

An Empowerment Experiment press release notes that African-American leaders from various realms of business, industry and academia are supporting the cause. It cites among supporters acclaimed author and networking guru George Fraser, chairman and CEO of FraserNet Inc.; Frederick D. Haynes III, Sr. pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas; Juliet Walker, Ph.D., professor, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, and founding director of the Center for Black Business History; and renowned scholar, author and professor Michael Eric Dyson, Ph.D.

“To really do this, you have to work from the paradigm that Black business and talent are among the best in the world,” says Anderson.  “I guarantee that if you were to try, you would find a quality Black-owned dry cleaners, service station, coffee shop, beauty supply store and banks today.”

A former strategy manager and speechwriter for C-suite executives at McDonald’s, Anderson has a law degree and master’s in business administration from the University of Chicago. John Anderson, who holds a bachelor’s in economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, has been a financial consultant with AXA Advisors since 2001.

One side benefit for the Andersons, who had spent more than $50,000 at the experiment’s eight-month mark with Black businesses they normally wouldn’t have patronized, is the discovery of such Black-owned specialty retailers as wine importers, upscale clothiers, home security firms, cigar shops and fitness centers.

How does one go about finding Black owned companies? “The best way to start is by calling an organization that works with Black businesses every day. Just try that,” Anderson says, adding that these organizations will only steer you toward Black businesses that are delivering quality goods and services.

Anderson herself started with her local Urban League affiliate. Others may want to try their local Black chamber of commerce by visiting their Web site or calling. “It’s so surprising how many of our folks who claim they want to buy Black more and can’t have not even made that call,” she says.

For more information visit the EE website, http://www.eefortomorrow.com.