Mind Your Business

Picture this... You're headed to that new black-owned business that just opened in your neighborhood. The food/product/service/aesthetic is right up your alley. And you want to support black people, cooperative economics and all. But when you get there, the service is horrible. Or the operator is rude. Or the prices are so high that you feel like they're taking advantage of you. Or you share your feedback and it's met with hostility. Now you're crossing another spot off your list and muttering, "This is why we don't support black businesses."

And see... I'm right there with you. But here's the thing... Ain't nobody lining up to teach us how to start and run a business. Those of us who make it work likely tried and failed a bunch of times before whatever success you see. We work really hard. We have good mentors. And we deal with a lot of problems before we see prosperity. But there's responsibility on both sides. Black entrepreneurs need to mind their businesses. And black customers need to check themselves.

Black customers always want a discount.
Sure. This is true. But if we're being honest, white customers always want a discount too. It's just that instead of asking for "the hook up," they say your rates are “too high” for the arbitrary class they put you in. Further, a lot of us don't really know how much stuff is supposed to cost. It’s not like we’re taught how to create budgets in school. So prospective clients don't always know how much they can spend. This is why they hit up their freelancing homies without a budget asking for free stuff. We’re socialized to give our friends discounts and freebies. Which is cool when you work at Foot Locker. It doesn’t translate when it’s your own capital.

Mind Your Business: Set your rates and keep them set. Don't let anyone tell you they're too high. Explain to your friends why you set your rates the way you do so they become conditioned to expect a high cost for quality.
Check Yourself: You get what you pay for. If your friend does quality work, be prepared to pay for it. Research the cost of what you're looking for and don't expect anything free. Entrepreneurs gotta eat too.

Black businesses are unprofessional.
Ok. Maybe. But if you don't know how to run a business, you just know how to do nails, you don't see a problem making a customer wait two hours after her appointment time. And even if a customer in this situation complains, what they're saying likely isn’t reinforced by the behavior of other clients so it looks like there's no reason to change. Suddenly, that client that left in a huff is just a “hater.” But really black women sacrifice a lot to look good and not everybody can take care of us. Once we find that someone, we don’t want to let her go. So we accept being double booked. We prepare to sit in a shop for hours. And we start thinking poor service is okay.

Mind Your Business: If you set an appointment, keep that appointment. Folks understand that stuff happens, but if stuff is always happening to you, maybe you need to take care of some personal things before you take clients. Also, evaluate criticism with an open heart. Maybe it applies, maybe it doesn't, but don't dismiss it.
Check Yourself: Don't be rude or quick to judge; there may be more to the story. At the same time, don't be afraid to speak up. It's your time and money. Don’t stick with service providers who disrespect it.

Black businesses don't give back to the community.
By and large, this is just false. Slim & Husky's owners, Tennessee State University alums, recently used their profits during homecoming to contribute to a TSU scholarship fund. It’s not hard to find black entrepreneurs out in the world doing good deeds.

Mind Your Business: Support your community. Or don't. It's your business.
Check Yourself: Ask yourself why this matters. Are you asking the same of all the businesses you frequent? And are you really verifying info? Or are you being petty?

Black businesses don't stick around.
Well... if you don't take care of something, it dies. So... duh. If you keep saying, "This is why I don't support black businesses," then how are they going to stick around? Moreover, black entrepreneurs don't always know what they don't know. And it's not like the clerk at the Secretary of State office is eagerly telling business owners about the next license they need if they don't ask for it. It's hard enough to run a business without learning what you need as you're being penalized for not having it.

Mind Your Business: Research everything. Find a good mentor. Ask questions. Get all your permits — before you open your doors.
Check Yourself: This is pretty simple. Support. black. businesses.