Empowering Black-Owned Businesses: Wilmington

Imagine a community where every handshake and transaction carries the weight of history and hope, where the legacy of resilience shines through economic empowerment. This is the story of Malcolm Coley and Newdy Felton, two visionaries from Wilmington who, amidst the global upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw not just a challenge but an opportunity. Their creation, the Spending Black Matters Facebook group, has become a beacon for Black entrepreneurs striving to navigate the new normal of business operations.

A Pivot Towards Prosperity

In the face of mandatory shutdowns that disproportionately affected Black-owned businesses, Coley and Felton leveraged their expertise to move Influencers Lab, their marketing firm, into the digital sphere. Recognizing the broader struggle within their community, they sought to extend a lifeline to fellow Black entrepreneurs. The Facebook group they initiated quickly swelled to 33,000 members, a testament to the shared challenges and the power of solidarity among Black business owners. But they didn’t stop there. The duo spearheaded the Spending Black Matters Marketplace, an annual event that not only showcases local Black-owned businesses but also educates participants on vital aspects of business management, from financing to marketing strategies.

Community at the Core

Participants like Katrina Watson, who founded A Whole New World cleaning company, underscore the importance of such platforms. For Watson, the event offered insights into the community’s needs and how to serve them better, highlighting the marketplace’s role in fostering a deeper understanding and connection among Black business owners. Yet, despite their willingness to support businesses of all ethnicities, Black entrepreneurs like Watson often face a discouraging lack of patronage from the broader community. This reality underscores a persistent disparity: the eagerness of Black consumers to support diverse businesses is not always reciprocated.

Challenges and Hope

Black-owned small businesses grapple with more than just market competition. Institutional barriers, such as difficulties in accessing credit and financing, loom large, hindering growth and sustainability. Coley and Felton emphasize the need to embed goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion within society’s culture to address these challenges effectively. Their efforts, echoed by the Legislative Black Caucus in California’s push for reparations and support for Black Californians, reflect a broader movement towards rectifying historical injustices and building a more equitable future.

In a world still reeling from the pandemic’s impact, the story of Influencers Lab and the Spending Black Matters movement offers a glimmer of hope. It is a reminder that in the quest for economic prosperity, community support and understanding are invaluable assets. As we navigate these challenging times, the resilience and solidarity of Black entrepreneurs not only illuminate the path to recovery but also pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable economy.

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