When my husband and I decided to update our wills and create a full-fledged estate plan, we made a point of seeking out a Black estate-planning attorney in the Houston area.
As entrepreneurs who have run a financial education company for two decades, we’ve long appreciated when our people do business with us, and we are likewise intentional about supporting other Black-owned businesses.
Our estate attorney, Fran Watson, gave us outstanding advice and excellent service, and literally went the extra mile for us — she drove 40 minutes to our house to have us review and sign the final documents.
By becoming more intentional, we boost Black businesses, not just during Black History Month but all year long. As a bonus, we are likelier to plan ahead and comparison shop — two great ways to save money!
Writing this article reminded me that, in addition to thanking her privately, I’d also intended to give Fran her flowers publicly for a job exceptionally well done.
Since I had taken a photo with Fran when she came to my home, I recently posted that picture on my social media accounts, as a way of celebrating and honoring her.
#Doitfortheculture: Make Buying Black routine — and seen
Our community can’t afford to stop actively — and publicly — buying Black and supporting Black entrepreneurs, vendors and merchants in every way possible.
Black business owners already face long odds. Even before the pandemic, federal data showed that the financial health of 58 percent of all Black businesses was classified as “at risk” or “distressed,” and according to CNBC, eight out of 10 Black businesses failed within their first 18 months.
Fortunately, amplifying Black-owned businesses is a process we can all engage in on a regular basis, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated.
Just by tweaking our everyday behaviors, we can develop routine habits that meaningfully strengthen the Buy Black movement, including by encouraging support from those outside the community.
By becoming more intentional and focused on our routine habits, we also offer an ongoing boost to Black businesses, not just during Black History Month but all year long. As a bonus, when we learn to shop more consciously, we are likelier to plan ahead and comparison shop — two great ways to save money!
With this in mind, here are six easy approaches for transforming your old habits in new ways that support the collective. Each of these ideas is a new habit that will take only a few seconds to a few minutes to learn.
Old habit #1: Buying from Amazon, by default
New habit #1: Buying from Black-owned businesses, by design
Why it matters: Admit it: How many times have you bought something and just automatically gone to Amazon for the purchase out of habit? By simply expanding your options to include Black-owned businesses, you develop a habit of thinking about putting Black entrepreneurs first.
To center Black entrepreneurs, use any of these websites to find Black-owned businesses:
• Official Black Wall Street (obws.com)
Old habit #2: Performing a general search on your favorite retailer’s website or app
New habit #2: Doing a curated search online for Black vendors
Why it matters: Even when you’re shopping at big discount retailers, you can still show Black entrepreneurs some love. On these retailers’ websites, simply do a specific search for “Black products” or “Black-owned.” Many of our go-to department stores curate this information, even if it’s not prominently found on the home page or high up in search results. But the more we routinely search for phrases like “Black-owned,” the higher they will become prioritized by the algorithms of these retailers’ websites and apps.
Old habit #3: Purchasing gift cards and gifts in stores
New habit #3: Buying gift cards and gifts from Black-owned businesses online
Why it matters: Think of the number of gift cards or gifts you buy in a given year. Some of us spend a small fortune on holiday gift items or presents for special occasions and events, including Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, graduations, weddings and more. Get into the habit of purchasing gift cards that support Black retailers and Black creatives. You can find them and discover incredible new Black brands at sites like Brava.co and Bifties.com.
Old habit #4: Ignoring the customer email or text survey
New habit #4: Giving feedback demanding support of Black-owned businesses
Why it matters: Companies are always asking us for feedback. They want us to rate their products or services and to comment on what the overall customer experience was like. Anytime you receive a survey request, instead of automatically ignoring or deleting it, make a habit of using that opportunity to offer some candid feedback, noting that you’d like to see the company step it up by supporting more Black merchants and vendors and Black-owned businesses. A bonus: Some companies offer incentives in the form of discounts, a chance to win prizes, free shipping or samples for completing customer experience surveys.
Old habit #5: Showing appreciation for a compliment
New habit #5: Appreciating and educating
Why it matters: Did someone just compliment you on your bag or that new shawl you’re rocking? Instead of just replying with a heartfelt “Thank you!” take a moment to appreciate the compliment and also give a shout-out to the creator or business, if it was a Black-owned brand. To kick it up a notch, post something brief on social media about why you absolutely adore a given Black-owned business.
While you’re at it, be sure to tell the person who complimented you — or your peeps on social media — why it’s personally important to you to support Black entrepreneurs. Spreading this message is golden because a word-of-mouth referral is often the best form of advertising for many Black businesses. It substantially increases the likelihood of their making a future sale.
Old habit #6: Talking to companies about your order
New habit #6: Talking to companies about joining the 15 Percent Pledge
Why it matters: In 2020, fashion designer Aurora James launched an organization and an initiative called the 15 Percent Pledge, which calls on large retailers to commit to dedicating at least 15 percent of their shelf space to products from Black-owned businesses. Among the companies that have agreed to the 15 Percent Pledge are Sephora, Gap Inc., Macy’s and Nordstrom.
To sustain the Buy Black movement, we must hold Corporate America accountable for doing its part too. Attorney Maggie Anderson, author of the book Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy, says, “I do not think there has been real, tangible progress in growing Black-owned businesses in Black areas and within Corporate America.” Anderson notes that Corporate America’s supply chains “are not inclusive, inviting or representative, and the companies are not being called out on this.”
So anytime you’re dealing with a retail company employee, whether it’s a cashier, a customer service rep on the phone or an in-store manager, ask them, “Has this store joined the 15 Percent Pledge?”
Chances are, they won’t know what the Pledge is; you’ll have to explain it briefly. You can even ask for your inquiry to be escalated to the higher-ups. But by adjusting our habits, and by lifting our voices to encourage support of this nation’s Black-owned businesses, we send a powerful message that Black entrepreneurs are worth supporting year-round, in good times and in bad.