Walter Bowman, Sr., recently added to the steadily growing number of black-business owners, when he opened his soul food restaurant, “A Taste of Carolina” earlier this month in the historic U street corridor in Washington, D.C.
“D.C. is a great place to be, its diverse and that shows with the types of businesses you see on Georgia Ave.I recognized that about D.C.,“ said the teacher at BenjaminBannekarHigh School in Northwest Washington.
Wealth and business ownership among minority populations is catching up with the white population. According to a 2005 U.S. census report, between 1997 and 2002, the number of U.S. businesses increased by 10 percent, however, the number of black-owned businesses grew 45 percent.
By 2010, the buying power of Black and Hispanic populations is expected to exceed the gross domestic product of Canada, the ninth largest economy in the world, according to a 2005 study published by the Selig Center for Economic Growth.
“More African-Americans have grown into higher economic classes. Their purchasing power is very related to that demographic,” said Ronald Langston, the national director of the Minority Business Development Agency. Langston says there is not a direct correlation between the increased buying power of blacks and the increase in businesses.
However, Langston believes that as the incomes of Blacks increases, it is easier for them to start a business. Langston notes that the services and retail and information technology industries have experienced the most growth in minority business owners.
According to the Selig study, some of the places with the largest share of black buying power are the District of Columbia and Maryland with 32.4 percent and 20.7 percent, respectively. Chinelo Cambron co-founded NetVisor, an information technology business in 2001.
NetVisor is a store-front located on Georgia Ave. in Washington, D.C. The area has a high concentration of blacks and Cambron believes both his location on the busy avenue and in D.C. is an advantage for his business.
“I would rather be in D.C. that out somewhere in the suburbs. I would say about 90 percent of our business is minority. It’s a really good place to be for our business,” he said.
Despite being in a heavy traffic area and being in business for four years, NetVisor only has four employees. Langston says that although black business are growing at a rate faster than white-owned businesses, many, like NetVisor, are very small and have only a few employees.
“A lot of these businesses are micro businesses, with only one employee. White businesses are outpacing minority businesses in size and capacity. We need these minority businesses to be able to hire more employees in order to be able to compete,” he said.
Monroe Blakes is chairman and co-founder of Ad-itive, a marketing and advertising agency based in Philadelphia. Ad-itive opened for business in 2001, Blakes now has 14 employees and recently opened another office in Los Angeles.
He says that although he had to compete with other larger, well-established agencies, he found success through networking and presenting something different that his company could provide. “We knew from the door that we had to carve out a niche. Small businesses have to be able to articulate their niche to potential clients,” he said.
Additionally, Blakes is a member of the National Minority Business Council, he said this provided him with networking resources as well as seminars on how to effectively run his business. Meanwhile, Cambron has yet to join one of these institutions but is looking forward to do so in the near future. “Right now we are looking to join the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. I think that would really help us out right now,” he said.
Indeed, Langston believes that networking and joining in partnerships is necessary for minority businesses to thrive. “I am hopeful African-American business communities will join in partnership and strategically align to go toward larger businesses,” he said.