In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of Black women who have started their own businesses. According to American Express, Black women are starting them at the fastest rate of any racial group. And per a report from the Minority Development Business Agency, since 2007, the number of businesses owned by minority women has grown by 163 percent. Many Black women have not been afraid to take the leap from working for others to running their own firms.
But since the pandemic hit, this same group has found themselves struggling to either get burgeoning businesses ideas off the ground, or to keep their companies afloat. According to government data from Robert Fairlie of the University of California, Santa Cruz, 40 percent of Black business owners, in comparison to 17 percent of white ones, reported that from February to April, they had not been able to work. A Goldman Sachs study shared in April also revealed that even though 79 percent of Black business owners applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans during this crisis, only 40 percent were able to get approved.
These constraints have forced Black women entrepreneurs to get creative, finding ways to take business online to be able to pay the bills and seeking out unique ways to get the funds they need. That’s where groups like Zanade Mann’s Black Women’s Business Collective come in. It’s a crowdsourcing initiative to help provide resources to Black women and Afro-Latina women business owners shaken by the COVID crisis.
“Many women are leaning on us to help get their businesses discovered using digital tools and campaigns,” Mann, founder and managing director, told us over e-mail. “As a result of the pandemic, I knew that it was time to do something on a larger scale that would promote their businesses as well as give them a place to learn digital media, business development, and marketing so that they can rise above their challenges. Everyone needs a lift up and I want to give black women a jumpstart.”
Aside from seeking to be a refuge in the pandemic, Mann, a business owner herself, including of a social media management company, was also inspired to get into action after reading that even though Black women have been creating the most businesses, they have been making the least in revenue. She said she came to the conclusion that “we have many systemic and knowledge barriers stopping us from scaling our ventures.” She realized the necessity of providing business development, marketing resources and tools to help Black women take their businesses a step further.
One of those tools is, of course, money. Mann created The Phoenix Fund, named after her youngest daughter, to remove the barriers to success for newer Black women entrepreneurs.
“I know how it feels to want to start a business but can’t afford to do so. And now with the economic downturn there are many Black women who want to start but cannot,” she said. “The Phoenix Fund seeks to eliminate financial barriers for startup costs such as LLC formation, domain and web hosting, and marketing and design.
Thankfully, there are a growing number of resources being created to aid Black women in starting and supporting their businesses, including Black Girl Ventures and Kathryn Finney’s Doonie Fund. For Mann, the goal of her Black Women’s Business Collective and Phoenix Fund is to not only help “bring to scale 25 percent of the 2.4 million Black women-owned businesses in the United States by 2025,” but to overall, support Black women in the effort to create generational wealth. Those recipients of The Phoenix Fund don’t just get money, but also a year’s worth of business development and marketing help from The Collective.
Thinking back to her own experiences trying to get started as an entrepreneur, Mann is glad to be of assistance in creating a sisterhood of ambitious businesswomen.
“I wish I would have known that being a business owner could be lonely at times; but it doesn’t have to be,” she said. “That is why the Black Women’s Business Collective and its corresponding learning academy is essential to the growth of Black women-owned businesses.”
For those seeking funding, you can apply at allinmybusiness.com/donate.