When Black-owned businesses succeed, our economy succeeds

Connecting with the Congressional Black Caucus at the Retail Advocates Town Hall

NRF hosted a Retail Advocates Town Hall with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on June 4 for key discussions on the unique challenges facing Black-owned businesses and priorities of the caucus. The mission of the CBC is to ensure that African Americans and other marginalized communities in the United States have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

“When black-owned businesses succeed, our economy overall succeeds,” said CBC member Representative Colin Allred, D-Texas.

In addition to Allred, leading members of the CBC addressed nearly 70 participants during the town hall, including Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas; Eddie Bernice Johnson, D- Texas; and Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash.

Black-owned businesses

Learn more about the role retail has in amplifying black-owned businesses.

Co-hosted by small business owners Margaret Barrow and April McClung, the town hall began with a discussion on the challenges facing entrepreneurs of color. For McClung, owner of Emily’s Heirloom Pound Cakes in Homewood, Ala., ensuring access to capital is key, “Most of the Black businesses I know are struggling with capital and resources,” she said. “All we are looking for is a chance to make a difference.”

Barrow, founder of specialty granola retailer It’s NOLA in Brooklyn, N.Y., sees the perception of others as a barrier, referring to experiences where Black business owners might not be seen as serious entrepreneurs due to years of systemic racism.

Not “being looked at like someone who is a business owner” is an ongoing issue, Barrow said. “We want to be treated like our voice means something.”

During the town hall, Lee shared her support for Black-owned businesses and noted the disproportionate impact the pandemic had on them. “You create an economic engine, but you also create opportunities and jobs,” she said. “We are grateful for those who have survived” the pandemic.

According to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 41 percent of Black-owned businesses have been shuttered by COVID-19, compared with just 17 percent of white-owned businesses.

Johnson, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, shared her insights on negotiations for an infrastructure bill that is much needed by retailers.

“What comes out of this package will depend on how the White House is able to work something out in the Senate,” she said, “because that’s where the strictest margins are.”

Celebrating small retailers

Explore more of our past town hall events and learn what small businesses mean to their communities.

The importance of vaccinations was a topic with all the congressional speakers. “If we want our economy to come back at full strength,” Strickland said, “we need more people vaccinated, and that includes the African-American community.”

The key to fully reopening, according to Allred, is “to get everyone vaccinated quickly.” Vaccinations will “help us reopen with confidence and create a level of comfort that will bring customers back to your doorstep,” he said.

“I encourage [retailers’] employees to get vaccinated,” Lee said.

Also as part of the town hall, members of the Texas Retailers Association met with Allred and Johnson in a virtual constituent breakout room. “These meetings, with two key members of Texas’ congressional delegation, provided TRA with valuable opportunities to meet directly with these lawmakers to discuss the latest federal priorities of Texas retailers,” said TRA President and CEO George Kelemen.

Join NRF in thanking these members of the Congressional Black Caucus for joining the Retail Advocates Town Hall by signing our virtual thank you card.

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