Reflecting on Black History Month as a Minority Owned Business

Catalina is a minority-owned, woman-owned small business. With the end of Black History Month approaching, we would like to take a moment to reflect on Black History Month, and what it means to be a minority-owned business today.

Black History Month, though not officially recognized by the U.S. Government until 1976, has its roots in the early 20th century. Historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in 1915, with the goal of promoting the achievements and contributions of Black Americans to the broader American history narrative. Carter Woodson, an accomplished historian and educator, was shut out of established American history societies, and believed Black history was undervalued in the white-dominated historical establishment. In 1926, ASNLH launched the first Negro History Week, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. This week-long observance gained popularity over the years, and was later expanded to Black History Month, aided by the momentum of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976 as part of the U.S.’s bicentennial celebrations.

Being a minority-owned business, it is important to us to recognize the contributions of Black Americans to the economic landscape of the U.S., the importance of supporting Black entrepreneurs, and the challenges they face.

According to data from the Census Bureau, between 2017 and 2020 U.S. firms with majority Black ownership increased by 14%, and brought in an estimated $141.1 billion in gross revenue, an 11% increase in the same time period. Despite this significant growth, these Black-owned businesses account for only 3% of all U.S. firms that are classifiable by the race and ethnicity of their owners. By contrast, Black Americans make up 12.4% of the U.S. population. This gap in ownership is due in part to a disparity in access to capital, which is reported by a majority of Black business owners. 57% of Black business owners in an Intuit QuickBooks study reported that they were denied a bank loan when starting their business, compared with 37% of non-Black business owners. It was also more expensive, on average, for a Black business owner to start their business than their non-Black peers. Black business owners are also much more likely to report experiencing racism from their customers, and harsher judgement of their business than non-Black business owners.

Despite these hurdles, Black business ownership is growing, and so are support systems. Government programs for supporting minority-owned businesses, watchdogs for discrimination against minority-business owners, grants and loans aimed at entrepreneurs, and many other forms of support are available. In addition to formal support programs, community support matters – in more ways than one. Not only does patronizing Black-owned businesses in your community contribute to a more equitable economy, but representation matters. Black entrepreneurs who are visible in a community motivate and inspire younger members of the community, who may one day grow up to be business owners themselves. In many ways, the future looks bright for Black and minority-owned businesses. According to three separate reports done by Intuit QuickBooks, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs between 2020-2023, Black business owners report that 85% were able to pay themselves through their business, 79% view their company as successful, and 78% expect to earn higher profits in the coming year.

Catalina is proud to be among minority-owned businesses that count themselves as successful and growing. As we bid farewell to Black History Month, we must acknowledge the significance of this month and the journey that the majority of Black and minority business owners find themselves on today, nearly 100 years after the first Black History Month was instituted. Our commitment to supporting and celebrating Black entrepreneurs is strong. While we celebrate their contributions, we also recognize the ongoing challenges they face. We admire the grit of those that are paving the way for a more inclusive future, and we are excited to be a part of it.

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