Blog Posts

Stories that affect our business community.

Making Money in the Cannabis Industry

Historically, cannabis has been responsible for incriminating countless Black men and women in the United States. Previously, African Americans were 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession. Currently, tremendous medical gains and legalization of cannabis in some states, has set the cannabis industry on track to grow to an estimated $50 billion by 2026. Thousands of entrepreneurs are diving head-first into this emerging market and making huge profits, while many Black entrepreneurs are being stifled by stigmas and systemic tactics preventing inclusion into the cannabis boom. During the upcoming School of Chamber & Business Management conference we will provide attendees with information and perspectives on entrepreneurial opportunities within the cannabis industry, as well as share information on the legal concerns for newcomers. Here's how Black people are being shut out of the cannabis boom.


New Voice:

New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce Advocates for the USBC's Bank-Black Initiative. 

Kelisha Garrett is the Executive Director of the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce which covers a 10 parish region in southern Louisiana. Kelisha is a staunch advocate of Bank-Black and supports the USBC's Bank-Black initiative to provide access to capital for Black entrepreneurs. Watch as she shares her thoughts on celebrating Black History Month through celebrating Black businesses.  

New Article:

Black Business Group & Black Banks

Making Black History With Economic Justice 

Pittsburg Courier
By: Hazel Trice Edney
It is the number one reason that Black-owned businesses fail: Simply put - not enough money and not enough places to get it.

That's why as America commemorates Black History Month, the US BlackChamber Inc. (USBC), an association of more than 122 Black chambers and 265,000 business owners, is escalating publicity on its partnership with historic, Black-owned Liberty Bank. Both entities are determined to break economic barriers that have historically oppressed Black people.
"Our history is full of trailblazers and pioneers that fought to build our community from the ground up. We owe it to them to sustain our community," says Ron Busby, USBC president/CEO.

"The top three concerns facing Black entrepreneurs are access to capital, access to capital, and access to capital," Busby says. "As the voice of Black businessowners, our focus during Black History Month is to highlight the importance of economic sustainability in the Black community and the dire lack of funding facing Black businesses."

The USBC has launched what it calls a "buy-Blackbank-Black initiative" as a solution to spur economic growth in the Black community.

"Bank-Black is the single most powerful economic movement currently taking place in Black America," Busby says. "Now is the time to utilize our Black banks as more than a place to hold our money, but as a resource for securing capital."

As a part of this initiative, a USBC Bank-Black Credit Card is being offered in partnership with New Orleans-based Liberty Bank, a historic institution and one of the leading banks of the National Bankers Association (NBA).

"Through our relationship with Liberty Bank, we can now provide access of up to $10,000 with an unsecured line of credit at an annual percentage rate of 9.96 percent and with a credit score as low as 570. We think this is game-changing in that it now provides the needed resources for African-Americans to be able to move our communities to sustainability," Busby says.

Black businesses have long suffered oppressive redlining by major national banks. Even the Small Business Administration has barely reached 3 percent in its loans to Black-owned businesses. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2014 that more than half of Black business owners do not apply for business loans when they need it because of fear of being turned down. According to a report by NewsOne Now, their "fear is justified" as "only 47 percent of Black business owners get the full amount they requested versus 76 percent of Whites."

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that national banks tilting toward major mortgages "means fewer loans for Blacks, Hispanics." This leaves Black-owned community banks to do what they have historically done - serve the underserved.

Despite the proven historic wrongs of government and corporate discrimination, NBA President Michael Grant says Black business owners must now find ways to rescue themselves.

"When it comes to the burden of proof of who is ultimately responsible for the economic survival of the Black community in America, I'm arguing that the burden of proof has shifted to the Black community itself," Grant says. "It does not in any way remove the responsibility of government to be fair. It doesn't remove the responsibility of corporate America to be fair and to treat Black consumers and their businesses with equity. But the burden of proof of who is ultimately going to save the Black community, I am arguing that this must be the Black community."

Grant continues, "Even if it means our advocacy, supporting our own businesses, going to our leadership asking, 'What are your plans for the economic survival of Black people in this country?' the burden of proof has shifted to us. And this credit card, in no small way, says that we are accepting the burden of proof. We're saying, 'Okay, if our businesses are having a difficult time in majority banks getting access to credit, what can the Black banks do about it? How can we accept that burden? How can we step up and revive access to credit?' That's what this has done."

Despite negative stereotypes, Grant points to the education and professionalism of African-Americans in business and in banking as what enables them to create their own economic strategies for survival.

For example, Liberty Bank President Alden J. McDonald, Jr., is the longest tenured African-American financial executive in the country. His nearly 45 years of experience in the banking industry was first established with his presidency of Liberty, which started with the bank's founding in 1972. The bank's website credits his "strategic vision and hard work" for the success of the bank. Assets have grown from $2 million in 1972 to more than $600 million currently.

"Our relationship and our partnership with the US Black Chamber is a partnership that will make certain that available credit is based on a level playing field," says McDonald. "And one of the reasons why we feel the relationship with Liberty Bankis important is because Liberty Bank is very sensitive to the credit challenges of the community. And therefore, our underwriting standards are taken into consideration for the small business person."

Grant stressed that Black-owned banks can strengthen the economy of the Blackcommunity while operating within a stringent regulatory environment.

"Our banks, like any bank, have to adhere to the regulators. We can't get around that. What we can do is when you come to our banks, we can talk with you, we can take a little extra time with you. We can tell you where the flaws are in your business plan, we can tell you that if you don't qualify for credit, then here are the things that you can do so that you can become credit worthy. But, the bottom line is that the burden of proof has shifted to the Black community and its leaders and its organizations," he said.
Ultimately, money in Black-owned banks is a win for everyone, Busby concludes.

"We want African-Americans to have money in Black banks because we feel that Black banks historically provided the resources in Black communities. But, we're taking it a step further, understanding that banks truly make the largest profits by providing loans and receiving fees," he says. 

"And so we feel like this is a win, win, win. It's a win for the Black bank, which has additional capital to lend. It's a win for the individuals because they can now get capital at an affordable rate. And it's a win for the community because the banks can now make the loans that homeowners and business owners need. The USBC takes great pride in commemorating Black History Month with a tribute that honors Black history and anticipates an even greater Black future."


The State of Black Businesses in the United States 

The State of Black Businesses in the U.S.
By: Eric Craig
The month of February marks the beginning of Black History Month, a time where the nation recalls the triumphs, inventions and strides of African-Americans in United States history.

While the month is usually geared towards celebrating Black individuals in United States, it can also be used as a point in time to reflect on the current state of Black people. One area in particular is the growth of Black wealth in the nation, which can easily be measured by the amount of Black businesses in operation.

So how well are Black Businesses in the United States?

State of Black Businesses:
African-American businesses have grown at an exponential rate in the 21st Century. According to the United States Black Chambers, Inc., in 2012 there were 1.9 million Black businesses. In Fall of 2015, there were over 2.6 million. Black women tend to start more businesses on average, according to the data.

However, Black Businesses still face challenges in the new year.

"The challenges the Black businesses face, any business regardless of race for that matter, is location and access to capital," said Ron Busby, Sr., CEO and President of the United States Black Chambers, Inc.

When small Black Businesses obtain capital through loans, they either have a high interest rate or never receive as much as needed, Busby said.

While access to capital is one disadvantage of minority firms, information is among the many that can stagnate Black businesses.

"Challenges Black businesses face year to year is the same: It's access to information. Most small minority businesses are unaware of many opportunities," said Kelisha Garrett, the executive director of the New Orleans Regional Black Chambers of Commerce.

Garret works for the Consulting Group Gen-X, which focuses on business development by linking small minority firms to large corporations that are looking to fulfill contracted tasks.

"There has been a significant push from the smaller corporate entities for more inclusion with more minority businesses," Garret said.

Particularly in New Orleans, infrastructure and construction related services have been on a rise, especially for minority businesses. However, professional services, such as marketing, public relations and legal have not grown nearly as fast.

"We have capable minority businesses that provide those services, but they are not highly identified within the larger push that's coming from the public or private sector," Garrett said.

Stereotypes of Black Businesses:
While Black businesses have seen growth throughout the years, they sometimes struggle with the stigma of being less than, less organized, and less effective than their majority counterparts.

Both Busby and Garret say that myth is false, especially in the 21st Century.

"It's a perception that has continued to go around the country, that our product and services are inferior," Busby said.

"But that's in fact not true. Looking at the size and infrastructure of majority firms, they have the ability to invest back in the firm. Many Black firms don't have the resources to invest back."

Many big box stores, and majority-owned chains have been around longer than their minority counterparts. That additional time has allowed them to work out quirks that are common in any start up business, Busby said.
Majority owned counterparts have been in existence longer, and have more resources to act quicker than a 'mom and pop' store. That has led to minority businesses leading to a jaded response, because of the lack of an ability to move as quickly as its majority owned counterpart" Garrett said.

"Home Depot started with one store at a time, just as many Black Businesses start slowly. If all circumstances were equal things would be different.

Another concern is the higher cost of goods at Black establishments compared to their majority-owned counterparts.

"This lays into the fact that we pay more because we buy less. We cannot leverage our dollars. Larger corporations have purchase power in volumes, and we're purchasing in need," Garrett said.

When shopping, consider minority businesses had to pay a little more to receive the same item, Garrett added.

"As we continue to have pride in our community and our businesses that myth will decrease. But I don't think the fact and the myth is that Black people's services are inferior. That's true today, and it's true 40 years ago," Busby said.
Goals for African-American Businesses:

The United States Black Chambers, Inc., is spearheading the "Black Wealth 2020," which is an initiative to close the wealth gap between White and Black families by the year 2020. The USBC has partnered with over 22 other organizations geared towards building Black wealth.

The new initiative plans to increase the number of home owners by 2 million, increase the number of Black Businesses to 4 million, and to increase the general number of African-Americans banking at Black banks.

The USBC has developed an application for both iPhone and Android users to help users find Black businesses in their immediate neighborhood. According to the USBC, there are over 101,000 Black businesses in its application's directory.

Through the Black Wealth Initiative, the USBC also hopes to increase Black annualized revenue. In 2014, the annual revenue, on average, for Black Businesses was $86,000. In 2015, the annualized revenue was $75,000.

Reflection of Past African-Americans in Business:

Throughout history, several African-Americans have taken on the task of starting a business to build the wealth and social power of Blacks in the United States. Many bBack businesses today stand on the shoulders of these great men and women. Here are a short list of some of successful African American entrepreneurs.

  • Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone was an inventor and philanthropist in the early 20th century. Born in 1869, Malone developed cosmetics for African-American women, including hair care and skin-safe hair perm. Malone also created to Poro college, a beauty college for African-American women.
  • Madam C. J Walker was an entrepreneur and philanthropist in the early 20th century, and is currently regarded as the first female self-made millionaire in the United States. Walker worked for Malone, but soon ventured off to her own company that pioneered hair care for African-American women. Despite popular belief, Walker did not invent the hot comb, but her business did successfully pushed, supplied and refined the technology, making it more accessible for consumers.
  • John Harold Johnson was known as an American publisher, and the owner of Ebony, Negro Digest and Jet Magazine. In his publications, Johnson supported publishing Black national news, entertainment and features, which had little to no national support at the beginning of his publication. Johnson was the first African-American ma to appear on the Forbes 400 list in the early 1980s.
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Bonding Education Program

The Bonding Education Program (BEP) is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Surety and Fidelity Association of America (SFAA), designed to help small businesses obtain a surety bond. We have partnered with Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority to bring small and emerging businesses a comprehensive set of education and professional services that will assist businesses in becoming bond-ready or increase existing bonding capacity so that contractors may compete and bid on WMATA RFP FQ16146/NAC to develop the Potomac Yards Metro Station.
Course begins February 23, 2017 from 11am-1:30pm and will run for 8 consecutive weeks.
Rainbow PUSH 20th Annual 
Wall Street Economic Summit
Special Discount for USBC Members: Click Here
The Wall Street Project challenges corporate America to end the multi-billion dollar trade deficit with minority vendors and consumers and works to assure equal opportunity for diverse employees, entrepreneurs, and consumers. Learn more here.
California Black Chamber's
Annual Legislative Policy Luncheon
Sacramento Entrepreneurs: Join the California Black Chamber for the Annual Legislative Policy Luncheon. Click here to register.
Chamber Training Institute

The upcoming Chamber Training Institute (CTI) consist of 3 days of accelerated, thorough training focused on strategic planning, implementation, and leadership skills. The CTI program gives chamber and non-profit business association leaders the opportunity to learn from experts, and provides them with the necessary tools to work more effectively to strengthen local business communities. Click here to register. Only 70 seats available. 

Digital Alliance Guest Post by Ron Busby, President and CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers
This month, in celebration of Black History month, we commemorate the unstoppable spirits of African American inventors who help lay the foundation for today’s digital revolution.  The son of a former slave, Lewis Howard Latimer, couldn’t have known he was leading us toward a world where lights dim through a voice command when he added carbon filaments to Thomas Edison’s light bulb.  One century later, African American inventor Mark Dean developed hardware allowing computers to connect to printers. Valerie Thomas, a pioneering African American scientist, laid the groundwork for 3-D printing by inventing three-dimensional projections. And Dorothy Vaughan, one of the stories told in the Oscar-nominated movie ‘Hidden Figures’, helped launch some of the first satellites into space by mastering FORTRAN, a prominent computer language program in the 1960s.  

African Americans played a significant role in America’s move towards a digital future, and celebrating that legacy means removing barriers for the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. We can level the playing field for black entrepreneurs and future business leaders like never before with increased access to broadband and wireless technologies.

Ron Busby, President and CEO of the U.S. Black ChambersA successful store no longer requires expensive real estate on a high-trafficked street. You just need a website, a product or service people want to buy, and internet connectivity. You don’t need to fly back and forth to Japan or Johannesburg to meet with potential investors; you just need a virtual conference.

However, a 2014 Pew Research study found that only 62% of African Americans have a broadband connection at home.  And a nationwide poll by Mobile Future also found that significant numbers of African Americans don’t view mobile technology as a means of economic empowerment, with half of the participants saying they did not know anyone who works in the technology industry.

Closing the digital divide is a top issue for the Digital Future Alliance. It’s a complicated problem that requires working with federal and local policymakers, industry leaders, and grassroots organizations towards creative solutions. Ultimately, this work is about lifting barriers and creating opportunities for all.

I’ve seen what can happen beyond those barriers as I travel the country visiting the small businesses who make up the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. I am constantly inspired by my fellow African American entrepreneurs. Young and old, these business leaders are helping lead their communities in job creation and economic growth.

Since 1997, we’ve already seen the number of businesses owned by African American women grow by 322%, making black women the fasting growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. Additionally, from 2007 to 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners found minority-owned firms grew 152 percent. African American entrepreneurs have nearly tripled in these five years, from almost 750,000 to 2.6 million. I’m hopeful these numbers will only continue to grow. Yet, I’m cognizant that African American entrepreneurs face significant access to capital challenges. We’re doing our part to narrow the access to capital gap through our Buy-Black | Bank-Black initiative designed to provide much needed capital to African American entrepreneurs.

Beyond bringing more communities online, businesses and organizations are working to ensure every young African American can pursue an innovative career in technology. For instance, Black Girls Code aims to train one million young African American girls to be innovators in STEM fields by 2040, while Code2040 connects talented minorities with top technology companies, funders, and fellow technologists.

During this Black History Month, let us remember that technology doesn’t only break down barriers and enhance the entrepreneurial spirit of African Americans. More than that, it celebrates and builds on the work of entrepreneurs like Lewis Howard Latimer and so many other African Americans who were innovating long before they had the right to vote.  

Closing the digital divide honors their legacy and means our voices will only be louder in the next digital era.?


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