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Race and Economy

Black small business owners are optimistic about 2021

Justin Ho Feb 22, 2021
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FG Trade via Getty Images
Race and Economy

Black small business owners are optimistic about 2021

Justin Ho Feb 22, 2021
Heard on:
FG Trade via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

A new survey by Bank of America found that roughly half of Black small business owners think they’ll bring in more revenue this year, and a quarter say they plan on hiring.

So far, 2021 hasn’t been all that bad for Sherard Duvall, who runs OTR Media Group, a video production company in South Carolina. A lot of its work producing short films dried up last year, so it pivoted to building and installing live streaming equipment.

So far, his revenue is where it was a year ago.

“I don’t want to speak too soon, so I’m going to try to let this first quarter go by,” Duvall said. “If this continues, on into April, I’ll feel a little more comfortable about that.”

Now he’s hearing back from some of the clients who walked away last year.

“A lot of those folks are coming back and saying, ‘Hey, we still want to do it, but we want to retool it for today’s climate,'” Duvall said.

Over half of business owners surveyed said they have had to reinvent their businesses like Duvall did.

AJ Barkley, head of Neighborhood Lending with Bank of America, said that helps explain why a quarter of Black business owners say they plan to hire more staff.

“I mean, there were some that were doing restaurants and now that are catering, for instance,” Barkley said. “Now, do you need to hire when you’re catering? Probably more than you did when you had a restaurant, perhaps.”

The survey found that more than half of Black small business owners say their growth has been limited because it’s been hard to get capital.

“I’ve talked to many business owners that said, ‘I’ve applied for an SBA loan in the past, I got denied,’ ” said Apollo Woods, the founder of OKC Black Eats, a restaurant marketing firm in Oklahoma City.

Woods said the current round of the Paycheck Protection Program has done a decent job targeting businesses owned by people of color. But he said don’t forget that during the first round, Black business owners had a hard time getting loans.

“The trust isn’t there,” Woods said. “So you have to build this level of trust to get the business owner to want to give the energy and effort again to try.”

Many Black-owned banks are trying to step into that breach. Robert James II with Carver State Bank in Savannah, Georgia, said his bank’s hiring to try to do that.

“We need people who can help us beat the bushes and find those great loan opportunities to make so we can get the capital out,” James said.

The Bank of America survey also found that over 80% of Black business owners said they had to work harder to achieve the same level of success.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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