For National Black Business Month 2020, Facebook and the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. have teamed up to give Black-owned businesses the support they need to weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic. The month-long celebration, which began yesterday, includes a series of trainings, programming and spotlights on Black-owned businesses as part of Facebook’s ongoing commitment to invest in the Black business community.
In June, Facebook announced a pledge of $200 million to Black-owned businesses and organizations. “Out of the $200 million, $25 million will go to support Black content creators, $75 million will go to cash grants and ad credits for Black-owned businesses and non-profits that serve the Black community and $100 million will be spent annually on Black-owned suppliers like marketing agencies and construction companies,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. “Facebook will also commit to increase the representation of people of color in the company’s leadership positions by 30%, including 30% more Black people, over the next five years.”
The partnership with the U.S. Black Chambers was struck after Facebook conducted a survey of business owners a few months ago. “In the survey, Facebook asked a great deal of great questions, but they never asked about nationality and race. So, we challenged them by informing them that the survey wasn’t helpful to anybody because we’re in a moment of time for discussing Black issues, and the survey didn’t address that,” Ron Busby, founder of U.S. Black Chambers, told TNJ.com in an exclusive interview.
He continues, “Last month, there was no way to identify if a business is truly a Black-owned business. Facebook agreed to take a look at it, and now they have started to allow you to self-identity on your profile as being Black-owned. This is great for self-identification, and it’s a great start. But we need to go deeper. Black Lives Matter is trending, as is Black ownership and buying Black. They’re all trending positively, and any time that happens, there’s always some manipulation. So, you’ll find business owners that are not necessarily Black-owned now identifying as Black-owned. The U.S. Black Chambers says ‘we need to certify and validate that these businesses are actually Black-owned.’”
For Facebook’s part, they agreed to work with the U.S. Black Chambers by sending them the profiles of businesses that have self-identified as Black-owned to actually go through a certification process. ”Facebook, along with Google and Amazon, have all agreed from a technology standpoint to use the certification program we created along with our corporate partners to be able to confirm that a business is, indeed, a Black-owned business,” he asserts.
As for the month-long events, the details are as follows:
• Black Business August: In partnership with The US Black Chambers, Facebook is launching a three-part online series consisting of trainings and discussions with Black-owned small business owners and business experts on topics ranging from access to capital to building community. On Tuesday 8/4, people will be able to pre-register at https://www.facebook.com/business/m/black-business-august.
◦ On Friday, August 7, the series will kick off with an IG Live Q&A with Ron Busby, CEO U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.: Busby will answer questions from our small business community on @instagramforbusiness and @facebookforbusiness.
◦ Session 1: Building a Thriving Online Community will go live on Wednesday, 8/12 and will include programming that reflects the importance of building digital communities. Hear from the US Black Chambers and from local small businesses including Eko Kitchen on how they connected with their community amidst the pandemic:
▪ Eko Kitchen is the only Nigerian restaurant in San Francisco that opened in May 2019. During COVID-19, owner Simileoluwa (Simi) Adebajo had to close her brick-and-mortar restaurant but didn’t let that deter her from helping her community. She has been preparing meals and donating Eko Kitchen’s food to a local nonprofit that caters to low income households. In fact, despite having been affected by a recent fire that burned down her businesses’ kitchen last week, Simi is continuing to prepare meals for others in need.
• Elevate & Celebrate is a month-long celebration of National Black Business Month from Facebook Elevate, a community and learning platform created to accelerate the growth of entities of color. This programming will highlight Black businesses and creators through a series of engaging social spotlight posts and Facebook Live sessions across Facebook owned channels.
◦ The programming will focus on four weekly themes:
▪ Week 1: Health & Wellness
▪ Week 2: Finance & Wealth
▪ Week 3: Food & Beverage
▪ Week 4: Beauty & Grooming/ Fashion
• The Shade Room & Facebook Partnership: On Aug 12 @Noon ET, Facebook will host a Facebook Live with Angie Nwandu, founder of The Shade Room, and Ron Busby, CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers, to educate the community on the pandemic’s impact on minority businesses and offer an investment to 20 businesses that will include a $1K contribution, IG Masterclass, FB ad credits, and Blueprint Certification Exam scholarships.
At the conclusion of these events, Busby hopes there will be an increase in buying power as it relates to Black-owned businesses. “In 2015, I joined a group called Black Wealth 2020. There were three aspects to our mission: increase the number of Black homeowners by 2 million in five years; double the number of Black-owned businesses from 1.9 million to 4 million; and double the annual revenue of these firms, which at the time, earned an average of $75,000 a year,” he says. “Before the pandemic, we had gotten that number up to $123,000 so we had made some gains there, and we want to get back to that track. Since the pandemic, 12 to 13 percent of Black businesses that closed have started to re-open. We want that to increase.”
Busby and his team also want the hiring processes at these Black-owned firms to improve. “The majority of Black-owned businesses are sole proprietors, so out of the 2.6 million Black businesses we own and operate around the country, 2.5 million of them are not Mom & Pop operations, but rather Mom OR Pop, and we want to increase the number of employees those Black-owned businesses have. Currently, the number is 112,000, and our goal is to get that number to 250,000,” he reveals.
The U.S. Black Chambers is now in its 11th year of providing Black-business owners advocacy, access to capital, contracting, entrepreneurial training and chamber development.