2020 has been a year that has brought many lessons, with one of the most important being the value small businesses bring to our local communities. Small businesses everywhere, especially here in Orlando, have been impacted by the pandemic, but Black-owned businesses have seen the most extraordinary setbacks.
As millions of small business owners applied for PPP (Payment Protection Program), a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York pointed to the significant and disproportionate distribution of funds for Black-owned businesses. This same study found that Black firms were financially disadvantaged at the onset of Covid-19 with weaker cash positions, weaker bank relationships and pre-existing funding gaps. It is vital to support local Black-owned businesses and demand the next round of economic relief be expanded to not preclude these businesses.
At Black Business Orlando (BBO), we are working to help sustain the life of Black-owned businesses in Orlando amidst the pandemic and social unrest, and set them up to thrive for the future by providing resources, information and advocating on their behalf.
Born out of a Facebook group in 2014, BBO was created with the desire to change the landscape of Black business in Orlando. What originated as a forum for Black business owners to connect and promote their endeavors has grown to 21,000-plus members pushing forward opportunities for Black and minority business owners. BBO has become a place for hope, encouragement and a reminder to the community to support local Black-owned businesses.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, Black business ownership fell from 1.1 million in February 2020 to 640,000 in April, a drop that directly impacts the Black community. We understand first-hand what these losses look like and are working hard to support our community in Orlando to reach their fullest potential and raise our collective voices to fight for these businesses.
We’ve increasingly used our social media channels to offer an important means of communication for business owners in real-time throughout greater Orlando which has been essential throughout COVID-19. Our group hosts weekly “town halls” via Facebook Live, yielding up to 1,000 viewers, where our team answers questions from business owners in different sectors discussing topics such as navigating relief fund efforts, reopening, and ideas to drive business. We use our Facebook and Instagram pages as a tool to spotlight Black-owned businesses and connect entrepreneurs with advice as well as networking and learning opportunities.
What can you do? Join the national and local movement to support Black-owned businesses in these challenging times. BBO’s membership is full of Central Florida Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs looking to help drive business success and opportunities. Promote your favorite Black-owned business among your own social media networks. Check out the BBO CLIC card in partnership Community Life Improvement Center, Inc. which motivates patronage of BBO merchants through incentives.
Our communities cannot afford to lose vital Black-owned businesses that create jobs and celebrate Black culture. If there is a time to lift up our fellow Black businesses, it is now.
Petrona Ramsay is the President of Black Business Orlando, a network for black business owners, aspiring black business owners and supporters in Orlando.