For Black food and beauty businesses, the journey to economic empowerment hasn’t been an easy one. It is more difficult for us to compete and globalize within different industries as a result of issues with representation, distribution, and access to supply chains.
Removing these obstacles could lead to more expansive business opportunities, continued scientific breakthroughs and increased economic growth within our communities. The same principles apply to Black entrepreneurs seeking to produce and distribute their products. Further evidence of the necessity for a coordinated supply chain network that meets our particular needs and demands is demonstrated by the absence of Black-owned grocery stores that specialize in natural, fresh, and ethnic food goods.
In the next section, we discuss a number of key issues that must be remedied in order to tap into the economic potential of Black entrepreneurs filling market voids in the food and beauty industry sector.
Black Market Potential:
To understand the vast economic potential, we must recognize the significant spending power of Black Americans.
In 2021 alone, Black Americans spent a staggering $6.6 billion on beauty products, constituting 11.1% of the total U.S. beauty market. Addressing racial inequities in the beauty industry presents a $2.6 billion opportunity for growth and inclusion.
You can read the McKinsey & Company full report here.
- Anti-Blackness in Supply Chain and Manufacturing: Discrimination and bias within supply chains and manufacturing processes hinder progress.
- Lack of Private Investment: Black businesses face obstacles in securing private investment, leading to difficulties in scaling and funding production jobs.
- Discriminatory Lending Practices: The U.S. Small Business Administration’s 7(a) program witnessed a 35% decrease in loans to black businesses in 2020. Studies consistently highlight discriminatory lending practices.
- Nepotism and Market Control: A few non-Black firms hold significant market control, inhibiting the entry of new Black entrepreneurs.
- Limited Shelf Space: Retailers often fail to provide shelf space to Black entrepreneurs due to limited access to suppliers and manufacturing networks.
- Quality Issues: Maintaining product quality and consistency remains a challenge, affecting consumer trust and retail performance.
- Supply Chain Organization Rooted in Systemic Racism: Systemic racism is deeply embedded in supply chain organization and funding pipelines.
The Path Forward:
To address these challenges and pave the way for Black entrepreneurs, it’s crucial to support Black farmers. A blatant example of historical injustice is highlighted by Acres of Ancestry in their Instagram posts, where they share a photo of Alabama farmer Michael Stovall holding a sign up at the Justice for Black Farmers demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., describing the $326 billion in losses suffered by Black farmers as a result of discrimination and land theft, which led to the loss of 15 million acres of land. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been enforcing racially discriminatory laws for decades, which is what has led to the complex position we are currently in.
Today, the impact of this discrimination can be felt across many industries. The supply chain for our food and beauty entrepreneurs is being severely disrupted, which has a direct effect on their livelihoods and legacies as well as those of Black farmers. This explains why it is difficult to get the resources and infrastructure required to generate high-quality goods for our communities.
To put numbers in perspective, securing just 25% of the $326 billion that Black farmers lost could completely transform our economy and create a new ecosystem.
New local and global networks that connect the entrepreneurial skills of Black people in many industries to the expanding demand of Black customers will be made possible by this kind of support.
Allocating just 1 million acres of land can offer a unique opportunity for value-added agriculture, creating new products and innovative processes from agricultural raw materials. This involves taking natural resources and adding value to them through various processes such as milling, processing, packaging, and creating new products from them.
Bossville Farms, a legacy family-run hemp farm based out of South Carolina, for instance, has managed to successfully add value to their agricultural processes. For them, adding more agricultural value involves transforming raw hemp materials into a variety of products and uses. This includes harvesting, drying, extracting cannabinoids like CBD and formulating products, quality testing, packaging, and marketing for distribution.
These techniques make hemp farming economically viable because they provide several income streams while catering to various industries and consumer needs and increasing the range of hemp-derived products, from CBD oils to textiles, that maximize the use of different hemp components. However, the same concept and techniques can be applied to just about any other raw material.
Assisting Black farmers in this type of capacity would encourage and fund human-centered and responsible technologies in our communities. Human-centered technology, as it relates to the Afro-diaspora, is an approach to technology creation that prioritizes the needs and experiences of the community. It focuses on culturally sensitive design, accessibility, empathy, and history to develop technology that improves lives and solves real-world problems while taking into account our varied views and needs.
If domestically produced goods are processed and circulated throughout Black cultural hubs, it can help Black-led logistics and trucking enterprises grow, provide faster shipping routes, and dismantle gatekeeping and nepotistic supply chain networks.
This strategy will result in more skilled and trade jobs and partnerships which will speed up delivery and turnaround times for Black business owners.
Here are specific steps we can take to help Black farmers gain access to land and funding are:
- Advocate for Policy Reform: Support equitable policies and laws that address historical discrimination in agriculture.
- Access to Capital: Promote funding sources specifically designed for Black farmers to aid in land acquisition and operational costs.
- Land Preservation: Back programs that protect agricultural land to prevent further loss of Black-owned farms.
- Cooperative Farming: Encourage the formation of cooperatives and pacts among Black farmers for resource pooling and combined support.
- Networking Opportunities: Facilitate connections with agricultural organizations, nonprofits and government agencies.
- Raise Awareness: Keep having conversations about the history of discrimination against Black farmers, need for investment in supply chains, and the ongoing need for support and equity within agriculture.
Unlocking the economic potential of Black farmers not only rectifies historical injustices but also lays the foundation for a more inclusive and prosperous future. Supporting farmers and entrepreneurs in the beauty and food industries is not just a matter of economic growth; it’s a step toward equity, representation, more education opportunities and thriving communities.
Making local connections with farmers is a key element in this journey, fostering collaboration and creating a brighter future for all.