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A very interesting article ran in the Chicago Tribune last week titled: “When building your business means hiding that it’s black-owned.” The article discusses three entrepreneurs in the Chicago area that believe not promoting the fact that their businesses are black-owned, has led to more opportunities and more success.
A small snippet of the article, entrepreneur Duane Draughon explains:
The covert tactics helped him to bill more than $6 million over nine years to a white clientele he perceived as racist, as he often encountered potential customers who slammed doors in his face or refused to allow him in their homes, he said.
“I never said I wasn’t the owner. If asked, I would admit it. But I always said I was either the project manager or a designer,” he said.
Draughon is among entrepreneurs who feel compelled to conceal the fact that their businesses are black-owned for fear they will lose patronage — either to misperceptions that the products or services are only for blacks, or to racial biases on the part of potential users.
Some entrepreneurs leave their photos out of websites and marketing materials. Others give the impression that their white employees actually own the operations.
According to a 2014 Nielsen report on African-American buying habits, 55 percent of blacks with household incomes of at least $50,000 said they would buy or support a product if it was sold or supported by a person of color or minority-owned business. Only 20 percent of non-African Americans in the same income bracket felt the same. The report did not specify the answers of the remaining respondents.
Also, in the article, Pepper Miller, president of The Hunter-Miller Group market research and strategic planning firm in Chicago, said she understands some decisions to downplay black ownership.
“It’s not about anybody selling out. People are trying to survive. There’s a perception that black people can only do black stuff,” said Miller, who began focusing on black consumer marketing when she was denied broader work when starting out in the 1980s.
“It ain’t pretty, but it’s the truth,” she said. “It’s called racism. As much as we want to feel like we’re not dealing with that, we are.”
So how do you handle this for your business or how would you handle it for your future business? Don’t respond so quickly because the answer may not be as simple as it seems so let’s use an example. If your business had the opportunity to secure a $5 million contract when it is not known that the company is black-owned, but there is a 90% chance that the deal would be lost if it is revealed that the company is black-owned?
What would you do?
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