5 Things African Americans Have To STOP Saying About Black Businesses


“Negro banks, as a rule, have failed because the people, taught that their own pioneers in business cannot function in this sphere, withdrew their deposits.” – Carter G. Woodson

African American businesses face a lot of hurdles in their ability to get started, grow, and survive. They come from everything from a lack of access to capital, predatory behavior by other communities, and a plethora of other variables that make being an African American entrepreneur not something for weak of heart. However, one of the most formidable adversaries to African American entrepreneurs is the African American community’s perception and attitude towards the very businesses trying to spur economic development in and for the community. 

The HBCU Money staff put together a list of five things they would like to see the community’s behavior and attitude towards African American businesses improve.

5. Can I get the “hookup”?

The goal of a business is to pay for its expenses, pay its workers, and hopefully after all is said and done leave enough money for its owners to have a living. Yet, family, friends, and sometimes strangers seem to think for the African American small business owner or entrepreneur we are the exception to that rule. The “hookup” has been the downfall of many African American businesses. Instead, this is a great opportunity to say how can I hook this business up with more word of mouth advertising so that they can grow and bring jobs and wealth to our community? 

4. Black businesses have bad customer service.

Has an African American store ever followed you around the store? Accused you of stealing before you walk in? Redlined your whole community? The list could go on and on. Yet, you rarely hear us as loud and vocal about customer service from other communities as you do the trope about African American businesses’ customer service. Is there bad customer service? Yes. Is there good customer service? Yes. Like all other communities we run the gambit, but the bad ones whilst a minority tend to get the lion’s share of the perception. Do African American businesses take customer service seriously enough? That is a different question all together, but what is definitely not true is that African American customer service is far worse than the predatory behavior we experience in other community’s businesses. Perspective.

3. Black businesses charge too much.

African American businesses are often accused of charging too much for their product or service. There are a number of factors to this misconception. More times than not African American businesses are in line with the market pricing. However, when they do tend to be higher than the industry, it is because their business is heavily reliant upon an African American consumer or they lack the ability to scale. Being heavily reliant on an African American consumer base is fundamentally economically challenging. We are the group with the lowest median income and wealth, which means we have the least disposable income to be consumers in the mainstream sense. Whereas a consumer in another community maybe able to purchase a product every week, we maybe only able to purchase it every month. For an African American business this forces them to try to capture more sale at once because of how rare the sales will be. We also rarely have the resources to scale our businesses which allows for driving down costs, but again this in large part is because of factors like African American small businesses having less access to capital, businesses too highly focused on African American consumers who have little disposable income, and a concentration in businesses that are often very difficult by their very nature to scale (i.e. restaurants, barber/beauty shops, clothing lines). 

2. Products are inferior.

Outside of food, hair, and entertainment there seems to be a pervasive belief that African American businesses tend to offer subpar products and services. To Dr. Woodson’s aforementioned point, it is often in areas where our own community believes we are incapable of competing and doing well in the space that this is so acute. African American businesses tend to try to produce a product that is superior in many cases because they are fighting this perception. However, it should be noted that there is often a disconnect of what should be quality and should not be. Also, if a consumer is buying a knockoff or counterfeit product which is popular in the community, then the expectation needs to be aligned as such. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. 

1. Need to do more for the community.

Before African American businesses can often become profitable they are being asked to give away their products and/or services to the community. A common misconception often that because you own a business, then you must be making money. It can take an average of two to three years for most conventional businesses to become profitable and even that is a tricky statement. Being profitable simply means that your business revenue is greater than your business expense. So for instance, if your businesses expenses are $2,000 and your business earned $2,001, then you are profitable. However, nobody would assume that that businesses is making enough money for its owner to live on let alone even take a salary. In most instances, especially for African American businesses those early years are spent plowing every dollar of revenue back into the business because usually there was little in the way of startup capital provided. It is usually many years before a business can actually support its owner(s) financially. Does this mean African American business owners should do nothing for their community? Absolutely not. In reality many do even when they can not afford to do so, but we are saying that our community needs to be slower to criticize just how much a business should be doing before they have even had a chance to get our their proverbial feet.

At the end of the day, our businesses are trying to compete against sometimes what feels like insurmountable odds. Those odds do not need to be exacerbated by our own community. Holding African American small businesses and companies accountable is one thing, but continuously treating them in a nihilistic manner is a recipe for economic disaster. Economic development strategy has a myriad of components to it and our behavior and attitudes toward our own institutions goes a long way in our ability to become economically empowered.

African America’s December 2020 Jobs Report – 9.9%


OVERALL UNEMPLOYMENT: 6.7% (6.7%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN: 9.9% (10.3%)

LATINO AMERICAN: 9.3% (8.4%)

EUROPEAN AMERICAN: 6.0% (5.9%)

ASIAN AMERICAN: 5.9% (6.7%)

Previous month in parentheses.

Analysis: Asian Americans saw a 80 basis point decline to lead all groups. Latinos had the worst increase among all groups with an increase in 90 basis points. Marginal movements of 40 basis points decrease by African America and 10 basis point increase for European America.

AFRICAN AMERICAN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE BY GENDER & AGE

AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN: 10.4% (11.2%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN: 8.4% (9.0%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGE: 25.2% (17.4%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN PARTICIPATION BY GENDER & AGE

AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN: 65.2% (65.2%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN: 59.5% (60.4%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGE: 31.0% (29.3%)

Analysis: African American Men and Women groups saw declines in their unemployment rate, led by the African American Men group declining by 80 basis points. African American Teenage Group saw an acute spike of 780 basis points. Participation rates for Teenage Group increased by 170 basis points, African American Men went unchanged, and African American Women saw a substantive 90 basis point drop.

African American Men-Women Job Gap: African American women currently have 973,000 more jobs than African American men in December. This is a decrease from 1,062,000 in November.

CONCLUSION: The overall economy lost 140,000 million jobs in December. African America lost 26,000 jobs in December or 18.5 percent of the overall jobs lost. From Yahoo Finance, “And of course, a lack of job opportunities—as there are nearly 10 million fewer jobs today than back in February— has also contributed to millions of workers remaining on the sidelines of the labor market,” economist Jay Bryson said.

African America’s November 2020 Jobs Report – 10.3%


OVERALL UNEMPLOYMENT: 6.7% (6.9%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN: 10.3% (10.8%)

LATINO AMERICAN: 8.4% (8.8%)

EUROPEAN AMERICAN: 5.9% (6.0%)

ASIAN AMERICAN: 6.7% (7.6%)

Previous month in parentheses.

Analysis: For a second straight month all groups saw drops in their unemployment rates, led by Asian America’s 90 basis point decrease. European Americans had second smallest decrease, with unemployment dropping 10 basis points.

AFRICAN AMERICAN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE BY GENDER & AGE

AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN: 11.2% (11.5%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN: 9.0% (9.2%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGE: 17.4% (23.6%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN PARTICIPATION BY GENDER & AGE

AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN: 65.2% (65.4%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN: 60.6% (60.1%)

AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGE: 29.0% (30.3%)

Analysis: All three African American groups saw declines in their unemployment rate, led by a major movement by the African American Teenage group declining by 590 basis points. Participation rates for Men and Teenage both decreased, but the Teenage group saw a 430 basis point decline which represents a five-month low. African American Women saw a participation rate improvement of 50 basis points in November.

African American Men-Women Job Gap: African American women currently have 1,062,000 more jobs than African American men in November. This is a decrease from 1,075,000 in October.

CONCLUSION: The overall economy added 245,000 million jobs in November. African America added 136,000 jobs in November or 55.5 percent of the overall jobs. From Yahoo Finance, “The U.S. economy still has a ways to go before fully making up for the drop in payrolls induced by the pandemic. Even with a seventh straight month of net job gains, the economy remains about 9.8 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level in February. The U.S. economy lost more than 22 million jobs between March and April.”

Financier & Norfolk State University Alumnus Ralph Newsome Publishes Children’s Financial Literacy Book


What was the inspiration behind writing this book? I’m a financial book worm and I was trying to find a good introduction book on finances for my daughter and all the books that I came across were either to basic or flat out incorrect.  So, I felt the need to address the problem. 

Your book is definitely targeted at the youth, which we know is a great time to teach about finances. Why did you decide to tackle this age group?  This age group is essential to really move the needle for the next leaders of the world to be totally financially independent. Let’s be honest most kids will receive little to no financial education while in school and at home. Most kids will have to play catch up the rest of their lives.  Repeating the same statements or questions: “If only I would have known this” or “why didn’t someone tell me about that”. I call that the generational trap or curse; most kids do not have the rich uncle to rescue them from a life of financial mishaps so this book will be their rich uncle, mentor, parent if you will. 

You live, eat, and breathe finance and investments, was there anything particularly new or challenging you experienced while writing the book? Yes! Where do I draw the line? There was so much I wanted to add to the book because I believe people are only given the bare minimum of information and then they are left to make critical decisions with very little data. I wanted to break the cycle of a lack of information with a powerful packed book.  I would rather have people complain that the book is overkill than to complain about it being like every other basic book on the market. 


Is there something you would like to see HBCUs and HBCU Alumni Associations do to help further financial literacy and aptitude in our community? Absolutely; it starts with a conversation on finances. I believe people either are too prideful to admit that they need help with finances or they are afraid of being ridicule for not knowing something.  A lot of times, in the Black community, money talk is taboo. Either because family members or friends get offended if someone well off brings up money or it’s perceived as though the well-off person is bragging.  Lastly, the well-off person may not want to bring up money because they may feel as though people will beg for money or the “you too good now” or “money really changed you” statements may come.  I know that was a little off topic but we have to address these issues.  More specifically HBCUs need to be open to using Alumni that have proven to be thought leaders on the subject.  Also, HBCUs (like Frats and Soros) need to collaborate on pulling resources to for investments in real estate, gold, small businesses, etc.  No disrespect but “fish fry” plates will not get it done. If the community could see HBCUs investing, building, and teaching on finances, there will be a 100fold return. 

And last but not least, how can teachers, parents, mentors, etc. go about keeping children engaged in financial learning as they grow up? The teaching must begin early and never stop. Kids will be interested in whatever the adult figure in their life is interested in.  If the adult is playing video games daily, the kid will play daily; if the adult is stuffing their face binge watching their favorite Netflix show the kid will follow suit. If the adult is on social media daily, smoking, drinking, cursing, etc….the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Every day is a teachable moment for kids so find little things each day to tie to finances.  Train up the child the way they should go.

Ralph Newsome is Managing Director of Acquisition– a proud graduate of Norfolk State University with a BS in Accounting. He has been buying assets and returning profits to investors for about a decade. He was invited to attend Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Investors Conference in 2016. What Ralph likes to do the most is help educate others in the complicated world of wealth building. Whether its advising portfolio management, educating on the use of leverage, or distress asset purchasing, Ultimately, he enjoys helping others. Visit his firm at New Level Realty Group.

The Double-Edged Sword Of White Philanthropy Into HBCUs


“When the white man came, we had the land and they had the Bibles. Now they have the land and we have the Bibles.” – Chief Dan George

Let us be clear, we need the money. Over 95 percent of HBCUs have endowments that are less than $100 million. In 2015, Sweet Briar College, a women’s college in Virginia, abruptly decided to cease operations. It sent shock waves through the higher education world and for many HBCU advocates it was an indirect message to our institutions that the fire alarm for survival for colleges on the financial fringes was not just a drill, but smoke could be seen in the very near distance. Sweet Briar College had an endowment of $75 million, which would put it firmly ahead of over 90 percent of HBCUs currently – and it closed.

It is no secret that the racial wealth gap makes it extremely difficult for African Americans to compete in philanthropic terms with our counterparts. The Federal Reserve in September 2020 reported, “White families have the highest level of both median and mean family wealth: $188,200 and $983,400, respectively. Black families’ median and mean wealth is less than 15 percent that of White families, at $24,100 and $142,500, respectively.” Given these numbers and given how much consistent financial philanthropic efforts are largely correlated with disposable income and wealth, then this certainly can give some understanding to the story of why HBCUs and African American nonprofit organizations (NPOs) in general have struggled. The Black Church (Are African American Churches Derailing African America’s Economic Progress?) being the lone exception to this rule, which has created a domino effect of instability for secular NPO development and infrastructure in our community’s institutions. Simply put, with what little money we do have to give it almost all has for the past three to four decades gone into the black hole coffers of the Black Church and done little to build proper financial infrastructure for other community supporting organizations. Enter white hope and savior.  

2020 has seen unprecedented gifts to HBCUs from white philanthropists starting with Mackenzie Scott, one of the cofounders of Amazon, who at the time of this writing is worth almost $60 billion. She made waves with her unprecedented and seemingly unsolicited gifts to six HBCUs and HBCU supporting organizations that totaled more than $160 million. This was followed up shortly after by Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P. and worth almost $55 billion himself, with donating $100 million as well to the nation’s four HBCU medical schools. These two donations alone are equivalent to approximately 10 percent of all 100 plus HBCUs combined endowments over their 100 plus year history. Finally in some HBCU circles it was exalted, mainstream America also known as European/White America was “seeing” us and giving us our just due. Paying what was owed to us for so long being mistreated and underfunded. However, that same tune was not being sung or so kind when the Koch brothers donated $50 million between the United Negro College Fund and Thurgood Marshall Fund in 2014 and 2017, respectively. There were some who even called for the money to be returned in both cases so there is an inherent complexity in our organizations being in dire need of funds, but also wanting to be particular about who the donor is. The conversation about HBCUs and European American donors seems to be one that is little discussed and complex in its acknowledgment. But the elephant is there.

In fact, unless something astonishing happens in the rest of 2020 and since HBCU Money has been reporting on the Million Dollar Donations To HBCUs beginning in 2013, three of the seven years of largest donations to HBCUs have come from European/White Americans. There is certainly some historical reasoning behind schools like Hampton, Howard, Morehouse, Spelman, and Tuskegee receiving attention from European American benefactors. These schools have a long storied history and ties with them since their founding. Morehouse and Spelman receiving their names as a result of their generous funding from one John D. Rockefeller, Sr in the late nineteenth century. It is no coincidence that their early proximity to whiteness has allowed them to fair far better financially today than their HBCU counterparts founded by African American interest. But what does it mean when European Americans are the dominant donors of HBCUs and not African Americans? 

The long complex history of European American philanthropy as a social, economic, and political tool of influence seems often remiss in our community. African Americans have a naïve tendency to believe culturally that philanthropy is altruism. This despite us all having a familial experience where one family member lent money to another family member and even if the money is paid back, the lender never seems to let it not be told at Thanksgiving how they saved said family member. Think about European American philanthropy as a tool – missionaries in Africa, seemingly endless aid to Africa through the IMF and World Bank that has been used to create dependency states versus developed (see competitive) economies and you start to realize that philanthropy can have a strategic purpose. It paints a picture that Africans are incapable of empowering themselves and that without European and European American benevolence they simply could not survive. The same picture can be painted for HBCUs and African American NPOs.

It is hard to speak out against European and European American injustice towards the African Diaspora if you are HBCUs and African American NPOs (AANPOs) when that is the hand that feeds you. How can you convince African Americans that African American institutions are the mechanism by which we can empower ourselves as a community if they themselves are unable to find a solution? There have been a number of HBCUs who have come under pressure from wanting to have someone like Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam speak. Whether you agree with his ideology or not, the African American community understands the perch from which he speaks even if they do not agree with it. It should be us who decides who can and can not speak, but that is not how money works. Money garners influence in ways that can make you sit up in your bed uncomfortable at night because you heard something rumbling in the closet, but you live alone. 

Let us be clear, it is not that accepting money from European Americans is bad or unacceptable. There is a fine line between cutting off one’s nose to spite your own face. However, who has the leverage in the donation is vital. Is it money you have to have to keep the doors open or money that just provides icing on the cake? In the former it is the donor who wields immense power and in the latter it is in the institution. HBCU alumni must at least be willing to have the conversation about where our institutions money is coming from and more importantly how can we can ensure non-HBCU donors do not garner influence that moves us off our purpose to serve African American social, economic, and political interest and empowerment.