Small businesses will have an indispensable role in vitalizing the US economy after COVID-19. Nearly two-thirds of net job growth and 44% of American economic activity comes from small businesses, which can serve as an indication of how well the economy is performing.
When recessions hit, small businesses are among the first to reduce their spending and lay off workers. On the other hand, they are also the ones to first start growing and hiring when the business cycle turns around.
Taking a Toll
While COVID-19 has caused significant hardships everywhere, small business owners are among those worst hit, especially those run by minority women. From February to April of 2020, the number of active business owners in the US decreased by 3.3 million, or 22%. Throughout the pandemic, nearly 32% of minority businesses have had to reduce employee hours, and nearly 24% have had to temporarily close their doors.
African‐American businesses were especially hard hit, experiencing a 41% drop in business activity, followed by Latinx business owners. Their activity fell by 32%, while Asian business owners’ activity dropped by 26%. While research is still limited, samples across race, gender, and immigration status revealed disproportionate impacts from COVID-19 affecting these businesses, all representative of the larger problems faced by minority and women entrepreneurs.
Around the world, minority and women entrepreneurs share in the difficulties of getting their businesses started. In Latin America, where 25-35% of employers and self-employed persons are women, female entrepreneurs often cite many of the same problems women around the world experience relating to entrepreneurship. Throughout the MENA region, some of the top issues women face are learning financial management skills, finding and keeping good employees, and the high cost of public services. In other countries in the Global North, such as Canada, minorities still don’t make up large percentages of small and medium-sized enterprises as only 9.8% are minority-owned, and a dismal 1.6% are Aboriginal-owned. The fight for equal representation in the entrepreneurial market is a far-reaching global issue.
While all business owners face entrepreneurial and startup issues, minority business owners in the US often face specific challenges due to their minority status. Facing difficulties about gaining capital and accessing finances remains of top concern as some owners are unable to get loans from banks, forcing them to go to other institutions such as CDFIs, or community development financial institutions, to get their initial startup funding.
The wealth issue is also made more complicated as minority- and women-headed homes generally have lower levels of household wealth, thus making internal investment and external borrowing more difficult. Other common issues such as negative biases, lack of representation, and networking challenges further contribute to discrimination for upcoming organizers.
Women business owners also face unfair discrimination due to gender inequality. Around the world, laws, cultures, religion, and politics are created by patriarchal foundations. Women in turn must deal with stigmas and discrimination while working in what at times feels like a “man’s world.” While women-owned businesses are reaching record numbers with 11.6 million US firms owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people and generating $1.7 trillion in sales, not everything is as good as it seems. 90% of all women-owned businesses are sole proprietors, meaning only 10% are hiring employees. Without a high rate of employees being hired, businesses are not able to grow. Most businesses likely have some trouble securing capital, but this is made more difficult for women, and particularly women of color, as just 2.2% of venture capital went to female-founded startups in 2018. Other grievances such as the burden of care, market saturation, and social expectations also prevent women entrepreneurs from being as successful as their male counterparts.
By making efforts to follow minority owned businesses on social media, sharing their information with your circles, and of course, buying their products, you are helping to expand the influence that these groups have.
Women and minority owned businesses in the United States often face many issues. To help minority and women-owned businesses garner success, many efforts can be made. Political action is one way to help support those in need. By making efforts to talk to your local and national representatives, you can highlight the desires and necessities to design a more equitable process for business owners across the board. Furthermore, you can take direct action by sponsoring a minority-owned business through the Chamber of Commerce.
Small businesses often lose networking opportunities as they cannot afford the fees associated with joining professional organizations or their local chamber of commerce. Additionally, one of the easiest ways to support minority-owned businesses is by helping to increase their visibility. By making efforts to follow minority owned businesses on social media, sharing their information with your circles, and of course, buying their products, you are helping to expand the influence that these groups have.
Are you ready to get started? Here are six minority, women-owned businesses in the stomping grounds of CIPE’s head office, the DC area, that you can help. To stay up to date with ways that CIPE is working to empower women, visit our website www.cwee.cipe.org
*Responses may have been edited for length or clarity.
Owner & Business: Alina Liao, Zenit
Where to find their products: 1140 3rd St NE, #2137 Washington, DC 20002
A few words about the business: “Zenit is a radical wellness company with the mission to make wellness accessible to everyone. We make journaling, and the mental wellness benefits of journaling, more accessible by making customized wellness journals and providing journaling mini-retreats. Our vision is a world where everyone has ownership, pride, and joy in the work they do for their mental health.”
How to visit them online: Follow them on Instagram @zenitjournals or visit their website www.zenitjournals.com
Owner & Business: Sahar Roques, Spice of Life
Where to find their products: The products are made in DC at the Mess Hall Kitchen. You can also find their products at www.enjoyspiceoflife.com.
A few words about the business: “Introducing Persian simmer sauces that take just about 20 minutes to cook a full meal for the family. Our Persian sauces make it quick and easy to provide tasty, diverse, and nutritious meals that can fit into any busy schedule. These sauces are created to provide a variety of meal options all in one jar. Perfect for busy foodies.”
How to visit them online: Spice of Life is on Instagram @EnjoySpiceOfLife or you can visit them on Facebook by clicking here.
Owner & Business: Vivien Bang, founder of Lei Musubi
Where to find their products: FRESHFARM Monroe Farmers Market, every Saturday from 9am- 1pm. 716 Monroe St. NE, Washington DC 20017
A few words about the business: “Lei Musubi is a small, woman-owned business founded by Vivien, a Maryland native of Korean descent. The inspiration behind each musubi option comes from talented chefs from all walks of life, including her most inspirational figure, her umma (mother). Each hand-crafted musubi is filled with umami goodness, packed with an abundance of flavor, & a tsunami of texture! With each bite, not only are you satisfying your taste buds, but you’re also supporting local farmers & small businesses too.”
How to visit them online: Lei Musubi is active on both Instagram @leimusubi and Facebook @Leimusubibaby
Owner & Business: Stacie Lee Banks, AAF, and Kristie Lee operators of Lee’s Flower and Card Shop
Where to find their products: 1026 U St NW, Washington, 20001
A few words about the business:
“Since 1945, Lee’s Flower Shop has been the premier florist in Washington, DC, serving the metropolitan area with fresh flower arrangements and additional gifts of all kinds! Lee’s is the oldest Black-owned flower shop in Washington, DC as well as the oldest DC florist, but also may be the longest-standing Black-owned flower shop in all of the United States! Stacie and Kristie, the current operators (and granddaughters of the founders,) simply love flowers and have ever since they began their careers in floristry as teenagers. Our team of floral designers most enjoy creating contemporary, edgy and vibrant bouquets, but we are always willing to adapt to the specific needs of every customer.”
How to visit them online: Lee’s Flower and Card Shop are active on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook @LeesFlowersDC. You can also visit their website https://www.leesflowerandcard.com/aboutus.html for more information.
Owner & Business: Silvia Alexiev, owner and director of Salsa With Silvia
Where to find their products: 3232 Georgia Ave. NW, Suite 10 Washington, DC 20010
A few words about the business: “Salsa With Silvia is the largest Latin Dance Studio in the DMV, here to not only teach you how to do the steps but also to offer joy and entertainment. Whether you are here because you are new to town, single, or just bored with not much going in your life, we have it all! We train people of all levels in small intimate classes, and also offer private lessons for those who are interested. Silvia and her team believe that those who dance are the happiest. See you on the dance floor!”
How to visit them online: In addition to their website, www.salsawithsilvia.com, you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram @SalsaWithSilvia
Owner & Business: Monique Ross, SHOP MDOTROSS
Where to find their products: https://mdotross.com/
A few words about the business: “SHOP MDOTROSS is a contemporary online women’s boutique influenced by Monique Ross’ day-to-day lifestyle fashion lens. The boutique offers you affordable, effortless, and timeless fashion pieces to incorporate in your daily wardrobe. We’re more than just an online shop; pop-up events, virtual and in-person wardrobe consultations and style book inspirations are just a few highlights of the experience we offer.”
How to visit them online: You can visit SHOP MDOTROSS online at www.mdotross.com or on Instagram @shopmdotross.