CU encourages support of black-owned businesses

By Clare Budin, Assistant Daytime News Editor

The online directory Buy Black Chambana is rapidly gathering contacts and attention from those interested in supporting the area’s black-owned businesses. The directory was started by a single Facebook user hoping to explore Champaign-Urbana’s community and culture.

“I moved to Champaign-Urbana three years ago, and while I exceed financially, I felt like I was missing the social aspect,” Mariah Madison, founder of Buy Black Chambana, said in an email. “I set out on a journey to learn about and support C-U’s black-owned businesses and realized I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.” 

The online directory now showcases over 20 businesses based on provided products and services. The site encourages any black-owned businesses in the area to register.

“Buy Black Chambana is so impactful because it will allow people to seek services and spread the directory around, businesses can register and use technology to spread information, awareness and support,” said Will Kyles, president of the Champaign County Black Chamber of Commerce.

According to small business financing company Guidant Financial, while there has been a dramatic rise in the number of minority-owned small businesses in recent years, black-owned businesses often face a greater magnitude of challenges in running a profitable business, such as a lack of capital cash flow and approvals for financing when compared to other businesses.

“There was a time where African Americans were prohibited to own land or make any money,” Madison said. “Even with the Jim Crow era we faced redlining and job discrimination which segregated us from higher-paying jobs and home ownership opportunity that prevented wealth building. As a result, we don’t have generational wealth, and with our delayed start it’s rare that we own large businesses in America.”

Kyles said greater awareness of inequalities prompted new programs to assist black-owned businesses, but not all of the programs were particularly insightful or successful within communities.

“If you’re a start up business, year one or even year two or year ten, you may not be able to take advantage of certain program requirements,” Kyles said. “As a small business owner no matter your race, you’re grinding and often won’t have time to figure a program out and take advantage of it when you’re busy trying to stay afloat.”

Olivia Carter, junior in Business, said greater hope comes with newer generations that, studies show, are willing to look more for businesses and products whose ethics surrounding sustainability and diversity more closely align with their own.

“There’s a trend to make sure companies are moving to achieve their maximum potential,” Carter said. “So many companies are adopting more welcoming policies, so companies that don’t move forward in the same way will be looked down upon.” 

Carter said she and many other students are advocating for diverse workplaces and leadership in businesses.

“It’s really important for people to work with and learn from people from all different backgrounds, and it’s definitely something I look for in companies I hope to work for,” Carter said.

Kyles said the globalizing influence of online marketing and shopping provides countless new opportunities for businesses who normally wouldn’t be able to afford conventional marketing to advertise their innovative products.

“When used correctly, technology can help bridge the gap,” Kyles said. “It allows companies to be innovative and reach younger audiences who use technology as a way to reach out and purchase goods. The Internet doesn’t see color: If you have a great product, people patronize your business and don’t even think about it.”

Madison said consumers are those who truly hold the power to support ethical consumption and diversity in business alike.

“Frederick Douglass once said ‘Who you give your money to, is who you give your power to,’” Madison said. “When you support a black-owned business you help close the racial wealth gap, strengthen local economies, foster job creation, celebrate black culture and hold other companies accountable.”

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