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Rasha Rehman headshot

18 Months In, Here’s How Black Business Owners Pivoted During the Pandemic

By Rasha Rehman
Black Business Owners

In recent years, and especially last summer, we’ve seen social justice issues unfold and then spark bold calls for change. Citizens around the world have taken stand for justice, and corporate leaders were no exception to speaking up. Despite plenty of shortcomings, the work promised in committing to racial injustice, income inequality and hunger, and food insecurity did not go entirely in vain. In fact, as they are directly affected, social justice is still fresh in the minds of many Black business owners, according to a recent survey.

Bank of America surveyed Black small business owners about their priorities, the challenges of business ownership and the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey revealed that Black business owners are absolutely championing for social change and that social justice issues have had an impact on their business operations.

“We did find that 94 percent of the entrepreneurs are advocating for social change so it’s actually to the point where it’s really driven entrepreneurs to advocate for this change not just through their communities but through their business,” said Sharon Miller, head of small business at Bank of America, in an interview with TriplePundit.

According to Bank of America’s data, more than half of Black business owners surveyed have communicated a commitment to equality and giving back to their local communities. In addition, one-third of these business owners are either seeking more minority and women-owned vendors; seeking vendors who promote diversity, quality and inclusion; or are hiring diverse talent.

Where Black business owners have concern and seek change

Miller explained to 3p that the existing small business ownership challenges includes the juggling of several roles. Small business owners wear multiple hats, from chief executive officer to human resources, and this dynamic creates additional stress, according to Miller.

This is reflected in Bank of America’s data. In addition to being inspired by social justice, Black business owners are “acknowledging their own stress.” In fact, 64 percent of owners said their mental health was affected by the pandemic and 95 percent of owners said the pandemic created extra stress for operating their businesses. As a result, they dealt with the pressure by prioritizing time with family and friends, engaging in entertaining activities, adopting healthy habits, and practicing religion or spirituality.

It is no surprise that the pandemic has exacerbated another challenge: the challenge of working multiple roles and managing its stress. This is because of the pandemic-induced employee layoffs and business closures. To this point, Miller called attention to a silver lining. She explained to 3p that the pandemic has changed the way business owners work, including adopting healthy habits, striving for work-life balance and experiencing efficiency when switching to digital platforms.

Black business owners are also dealing with the high levels of stress that has come with the pandemic by carrying out new changes that prioritize employee wellbeing. The top changes include allowing a flexible work schedule, working from home, offering additional paid time off or vacation time, financial wellness programs, and expanding well-being programs to include behavioral and mental health programs.

Advocating for social justice amidst financial challenges

Black-owned businesses disproportionately faced financial challenges during the pandemic. In fact, 41 percent of Black owned businesses completely shut down, compared to 17 percent of white-owned businesses. While Black business owners are keen on advocating for social justice and implementing changes, they are also compelled to focus and work through financial hardships. This can slow down any of their efforts focused on advocating for social justice.

There is at least one way to slow or turn this situation around. Bank of America’s data reveals that funding is essential in helping Black business owners recover faster from the pandemic. This is because half of the owners intend to apply for a bank loan or credit this year, which is intended for payroll and staffing, new safety measures and expanding operations.

Miller explained to 3p that Bank of America recognizes what needs to be done. This is evident in its participation in the U.S. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and partnerships with community development financial institutions (CDFIs). Bank of America has also made a $1 billion, four-year commitment to support local communities facing economic and racial injustice which was amplified by the pandemic. This commitment focuses on health, employment, small businesses, and housing. Advocating for social justice has a knock-on effect on business operations and employee wellbeing. With additional support from banks and conglomerates, Black owned businesses can thrive and continue to advance social justice.

Image credit: Pexels

Rasha Rehman headshot

Rasha is a freelance journalist with experience in external communications and publicity. She is a Ryerson School of Journalism graduate and has worked on various media and communication campaigns in film, home development and the nonprofit sector. Rasha is passionate about storytelling for impact, whether she focuses on social enterprise, transforming our food system or making the business world more inclusive.

Read more stories by Rasha Rehman