An increasing number of Black women are opting to leave Corporate America behind and strike out on their own, according to a report commissioned by American Express OPEN. The study titled, “The 2015 State of Women-Owned Business Report,” revealed businesses owned by Black women had seen a 322 percent jump since 1997. The report also stated Black women own about 14 percent of all businesses nationwide.
There are certain states with high numbers of businesses owned by Black women.
“While nationally African-American women comprise 14 percent of all women-owned firms, African-American women comprise a greater than average share of all women-owned firms in Georgia (35 percent), Maryland (33 percent), and Illinois (22 percent),” according to the report.
Business organizations are also beginning to see the rising numbers of African-American women entrepreneurs. Fortune magazine reported Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, has seen an increase in membership from Black women.
“We attribute the growth in women-owned firms to the lack of fair pay, fair promotion, and family-friendly policies found in corporate America,” Dorfman said. “Women of color, when you look at the statistics, are impacted more significantly by all of the negative factors that women face. It’s not surprising that they have chosen to invest in themselves.”
Build Institute, a Detroit, Mich. organization that teaches an eight-week course showing entrepreneurs how to start their own businesses, has also witnessed the growing number of Black business women.
According to Fortune, “Since it was formed in 2012, the Build Institute has graduated nearly 600 students from its eight-week courses, which teach the basics of starting and running a business, including such topics as money management and how to determine your break-even point. Nearly 70 percent of those students are women, and 60 percent of them identify as a member of a minority group.”
Build Institute graduate Danielle Smith decided to launch Detroit Maid in 2013 when she noticed the cleaning industry wasn’t serving certain markets.
“Firms that were just two or three miles away in the suburbs wouldn’t come into the city. It made me angry,” said Smith in a Fortune article. “And I was sure I wasn’t the only Detroiter who wanted some kind of basic service.”
Now Smith’s company has four part-time employees and 300 accounts. This year, Detroit Maid expects to bring in $80,000, double last year’s revenue, according to Fortune.
Many Black people were forced to create their own businesses after the economic turmoil of the Great Recession led to mass layoffs. Also, business in several industries, such as real estate, dried up. This forced many people to realize they couldn’t count on Corporate America to provide them with a steady paycheck. Although the unemployment rate has dropped to 5.3 percent, a seven-year low according to The New York Times, many people are still opting to work for themselves.
It seems many Black women are listening to the message being preached by Dr. Boyce Watkins, a finance professor, author and social commentator. Through his websites, YouTube videos, seminars and books, Watkins has been urging Black people to leave the “plantation” of Corporate America. Watkins says Black people will never get the respect they deserve working for white-owned companies.
“Part of the reason that Black people (especially Black men) can’t get jobs is because we are begging for jobs from white people,” said Watkins on the website Financial Juneteeth. “White people are never going to hire us before they hire other white people, that just doesn’t happen in America. So, the best way to get access to an opportunity is to create the opportunity yourself. We must control our own economic destiny.”