Tuesday, January 22, 2019
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Would You Hide That Your Business Is Black-Owned To Achieve More Success?

Hiding Black Owned

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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  • Chris says:

    Absolutely. It’s about survival. White businesses go after black dollars all the time and nobody complains. Some white owned businesses were built on the back of the black dollar. Most off the businesses in the hood are usually owned by communities outside of the black community. The difference is that we’ll happily purchase from another community’s business, even avoid the black business that offers the same service, because of misperceptions of black businesses. Until the black community takes care of their own and spends their dollars with their own we will always rely on other communities to give us opportunities that in 2016 we should be able to give ourselves. Ask the Jewish community about it….

  • This is an issue long overdue for discussion. Unfortunately, the need to conceal one’s black ownership to gain business from whites, also applies to many fellow blacks. Too often, we blacks choose white-owned businesses over black-owned business, not because of quality or service but for reasons that are, sadly, intrinsic. Some believe the self-loathing can be traced back to slavery and it’s impact on our self-view, even today.

    Let’s be clear: it is the obligation of all businesspersons, black and otherwise, to be professional, competitive, and respectful of one’s customers. That said, with all factors being equal or even exceeded by black businesses, the facts in my first paragraph hold.

    In the business world, it is critical that one’s ego and desire for public recognition take a back seat to growing one’s business to a point where, once firmly-established, it does not matter that one is black. However, the foregoing is not an absolute.

    One must make this decision for one’s self. It can be argued that one SHOULD NOT deny one’s blackness, thus enabling bigots and racists. In the operation of my electronics company, years ago; as an engineer, and now as an author and entrepreneur, I have both touted and downplayed my ethnicity. I struggle now, regarding whether to include my photo on my websites.

    Finally, take a thoughtful and tactical approach to whatever decision, realizing that it is often necessary to make a case-by-case decision. – Always forward.

  • Correction to: last sentence, first paragraph of my comment: should read its, not it’s. I’m an editing fanatic.:-)

  • Lily says:

    This is such a huge issue that no one is talking about. I’ve spoken to quite a few people in the community, and most are saying to not reveal the color of your skin until you absolutely have to. I’m completely torn on this situation. I have digital products where I need to show my face, and I also believe that showing who I am establishes a better personal connection with my prospective clients. Obviously, it just make sense to show who you are. But then there is the price of discrimination to be dealt with.

    Thank you for this important post. I hope to see more content relating to the real, everyday struggles African American business owners go through, and specific strategies about how to overcome it.

  • Derek says:

    First, we Blacks have to start thinking beyond our skin color and start to think broadly about ourselves and our businesses. Calling ourselves “black entrepreneurs”, “black businesses” is “self-segregation”.
    Second, When doing business we have to learn lessons from sport and music where blacks have been and are still in high demand because we are the best. Thus, providing the best and something unique,,and catering to all clientele of all origins, will increase your business and trigger high demand, regardless the owner being black, white., etc. it is about choosing to differentiate ourselves, not just in sport, music, film, but in all businesses and strive to invent, create, and provide products and services that others, the majority whites, are not providing. If you and your products and services are truly good it matters less whether you are black. Think broad, big, and unique, not black.

  • Chuck Finley says:

    I have seen this a number of times and I am familiar with blacks and African American that conceal their identity simply to gain traction while remaining transparent. In this society being the ‘best’ is not always the one that gets the job or the credit. Having read an article regarding B.Smith when attempting to expanding her restaurant business in NYC. The perception was the leasing company did not want to lease to her because she was black. This has happened a number of times, when once the owner has revealed their ethnicity, traction tends to slide from white and blacks clients. A personal friend of mine just sold his company to a large defense contractor for over $50 million dollars. When he walked in the room after the acquisition they were dumbfounded that the CEO ans president was black.

  • John says:

    I have observed that over the years minority business programs have diverted otherwise brilliant business people that could excel in the broader marketplace to limited avenues to success.

    Focus on superior offerings in valid markets and converting customers to your sales force is the most effective way to succeed against admitted racism in the business world.

  • We are a 5 year old business with 50/50 ownership: one black, one white, one biracial. Nobody can see that because we’re online. Our clientele, as best we can determine, is 85%black. We occasionally get asked — strictly by blacks — if we’re black-owned with the clear implication that that would be preferable, so from our desks there’s willingness to keep black dollars black. However, we never answer that question because our position has always been that the ideal world is color-blind and focused on ‘the content of our character.’ We think the “secret” is to find a real need, do fantastic work, be honest in your dealings, and cultivate great references. Let racism die under its own wrong-headed weight.

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