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Indianapolis sees an increase in openings of Black-owned businesses during pandemic

Posted at 8:00 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-16 00:08:40-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Black Americans have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, but, in 2020, there was also a 60% increase nationwide in the number of new Black entrepreneurs.

The "Buy Black" movement, in response to the George Floyd protests against police brutality and racism, opened doors to allowing Black Americans to advance economically.

"It helps us tell other ethnicities, there's nothing wrong with buying Black. Try it. See what it's like. See if it's different," said Anita Williams, board chair of the Indy Black Chamber of Commerce.  

Shan Tate, owner of Black Skin Coffee and Tea said entrepreneurship has always been deeply rooted within her family.

"My uncle owned his own paint store, and my aunt owned her own jewelry store," Tate said. 

So, it was a no-brainer when Tate wanted to start a business to call her own.  

"Originally, we owned a company called YaSigara. YaSigara is a mobile cigar lounge and originally we got the coffee to assist with the cigars," Tate said.  

It was a business that Tate was finally able to get off the ground in 2019, but then the pandemic forced her to quickly reconsider her setup.  
“We couldn't be inside," Tate said. "I just felt that if we did everything mobile it would keep us in business as well as bringing the goodies to everyone and still be in COVID compliance."

It's a consensus for most business owners trying to stay afloat through the pandemic, but when the odds are already against you as a Black business owner, that reality can be very discouraging.  

"When the state did their disparities study, they said statewide they were down to 2% for African American businesses," Williams said. "I think one reason is that we don't have second-generation businesses. Quite often, you can do something if you have a mentor or somebody that can help you. Somebody, that can get you through the hurdles. For second-generation, third-generation businesses have their families, they build a rapport with vendors. Most of the time, not only are we first-generation college students, but we're also first-generation starting our business."  

Since the pandemic began, the percentage of black-owned businesses surged higher than ever before nationally with an average of nearly 380 out of every 100,000 Black adults becoming new entrepreneurs, according to census data from the Kauffman Foundation.  

"Our other challenge is that we spend our money with other people, so the dollar doesn't stay in the black community for long. We all know that. But what we want is for the dollar to stay in our community for weeks, for months," Williams said.  

Williams said she started the organization to inspire and present endless opportunities for Black business owners to thrive. A vision that started small that now has a waiting list to support the dreams to help generate Black dollars in the circle city.  

Willie Eaton came on board last year to work with the Indy Black Chamber of Commerce. Since then, he has been able to push his cosmetic line to greater heights.  

"My nieces and nephews all see me running a business and growing a business and know that it's possible, so the next generation we'll have more entrepreneurs, more people owning their own businesses to show that we don't always have to work for someone," said Eaton, owner of Buddah Skin Cosmetics.  

Every Tuesday and Thursday, the Indy Black Chamber of Commerce meets at the City Market to help develop Black-owned businesses, educate, and enhance the Black community's economic status.