Black Business Friday: 'It’s more than just shopping for your family and friends'

Sarah Fielding
·4 min read

This year, millions of Americans will have to rethink their holiday shopping plans. Many shoppers are looking for ways to safely support their local businesses – particularly minority-owned businesses, which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

Cynthia Daniels has an event for that.

Like so many entrepreneurs in 2020, the Memphis-based events planner is taking her business online – and supporting her community at the same time. She is bringing together 200 Black-owned businesses from all across the country for Black Business Friday, a one-day shopping event she hopes will bring some much-needed cash to small businesses.

Vendors include an organic skincare line, a gift shop that curates artisanal snacks and a unicorn-themed fashion label. Over the last several weeks, Daniels has been promoting participating businesses on her Instagram account, which has more than 10,000 followers.

“This is really trying to find creative ways to help people understand that you’re not just buying products from these Black businesses – you’re helping them sustain during this difficult time,” Daniels said.

Related: You've got snail: why molluscs are the best pets for 2020

Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 – they have been roughly three times as likely zas white Americans to be infected by the virus – and Black-owned businesses have been hit harder by the economic fallout.

This spring, Black-owned businesses were twice as likely to close down, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and yet they were less likely to apply for and receive federal emergency aid. At the same time, the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked a national reckoning over structural racism and longstanding inequities.

Black Business Friday has its roots in an event Daniels organized earlier this year. On 19 June, she launched Juneteenth Shop Black, a three-day shopping event commemorating Juneteenth – which marks the day Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas,zq announcing that the last enslaved people were free in America – and promoting 100 Black-owned businesses. The event netted its participants over $1m in 72 hours.

“I’m trying to remind people it’s more than just shopping for your family and friends,” she said. “You’re really helping that local person.”

Designer Aurora James is taking a slightly different tack to bringing new consumers to Black-owned businesses – she’s approaching the big chains.

In June, as major brands voiced their support for Black Lives Matter, James saw an opportunity to ask them to put their words into practice. She launched the 15 Percent Pledge, a call for large firms to stock at least 15% of their products from Black-owned brands. (She set the figure at 15% because Black Americans make up about 15% of the US population.) Sephora, West Elm and Macy’s have signed on.

“It’s not like we’re asking any of these retailers not to carry the best product,” James said. “We’re just asking them to acknowledge the fact that they may not have been casting the net wide enough to find the best products in America, because a lot of them are owned by Black businesses.”

In advance of Black Friday, she has put together a holiday gift guide with businesses like Golde, a “superfood” wellness brand, and Oma the Label, a designer jewelry shop, and is urging her partners to highlight their Black-owned brands.

“We’re really seeing that consumers are excited to spend their money in a more meaningful way this holiday season,” she said. “There are so many people who just want to connect with their neighbors and with their community. And that means giving gifts that are really going to strengthen and empower your community.”

For shoppers looking for something more bespoke, Post 21, run by mother-daughter duo Juana Williams and Blair Paysinger, and Instagram accounts like Black Owned Everything and Black Artist Space curate handmade gifts by Black makers like artist Marie Alexander and Ani & Co candles. Larger online marketplaces like Etsy and Society6 have also launched pages that showcase Black artisans.

Daniels said Black Business Friday is just the beginning of what she hopes will be a busy shopping season. She’s set to launch a virtual Christmas expo running from 11 to 13 December. Plans for next year’s Juneteenth and Black Business Friday are already in the works.

She hopes the events will encourage shoppers to support Black and local businesses year-round. “Even if it’s maybe one item a week, just being intentional about shopping at a Black business, whether it’s online or in-person, will continue to help them sustain during this time,” she said. “Research Black businesses in your area. There should be a list that should come up so you can know the types of places that you can patronize.”