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'Shop Black': Tips to support black businesses this holiday season

More than 71 million people are expected shop on Small Business Saturday as they finish their holiday lists. Here's how you can support black-owned businesses.
Renata Evans, co-owner of Goodness Gracious Alive, prepares a floral arrangement on Nov. 22 in the shop along Detroit's Avenue of Fashion commercial district. Corey Williams / AP

Small Business Saturday, taking place on Nov. 25, is a big day for small businesses, and it can have real significance for minority business owners.

It is estimated more than 71 million people will shop on Saturday as they finish their holiday lists. According to American Express​, who founded the effort in 2010, 112 million consumers shopped with small businesses last year and small business owners generated $15.4 billion.

Lisa Randall, 32, of Detroit, Michigan, said the holiday season is a great time to explore black-owned businesses in local communities and across the country.

“I think it is important to put my money where my mouth is and support small businesses run by people of color," she said.

Randall used to do most of her shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, but because it has become easier to shop online and there is a wider selection, she is a big fan of getting as much done as she can online.​

“It isn’t always easy. And yes, I am doing a lot of this online, but it makes me happy to know that my money is supporting black small businesses.”

Martin Ross is not only supporting black-owned businesses on Saturday, but every day. “There is no reason why I need to limit my shopping and spending to a Saturday," said the 39-year-old from Chicago. He will also shop online throughout the holiday season.

There are close to 8 million minority-owned businesses in the U.S., with over 2 million being black-owned businesses, according to the Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency. This holiday season could be a big payoff for small black-owned businesses and social media campaigns such as #BuyBlack, #BlackDollarsMatter, and others are encouraging people to "shop black."

Here are some tips for supporting black-owned businesses and finding holiday gifts starting on Small Business Saturday:

  • Do your homework. Know who the black retailers are in your area. Call ahead to see if they have the top items on your list. Ask for referrals.
  • You can break away from the cookie cutter gifts. You could go to the mall and buy a sweater that looks like all the other sweaters, or you can reach out to local, black-owned stores to get something really unique.
  • Check out retailers on social media. Some businesses don’t have big​ budgets​ to spend on traditional advertising methods such as billboards and television ads, so they prefer to use their funds on other expenses. And millennial business owners see social media as a better investment, so they use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to spread the word about their products and when they are running specials. It’s a great way to connect.
  • Get on the email lists. Many black-owned businesses communicate and give updates via their websites and email lists.
  • Share the love. If you find a great deal or get awesome service, don’t be afraid to leave a post so that others are looking for presents can give them a try.
  • Think beyond the presents. Check out the great coffee shops, small grocery stores, and restaurants that are black owned. Patronage is their livelihood.
  • Make Small Business Saturday an event. Bring your friends and make a day of it. Many retailers will put out food and even a glass of wine for their guests.
  • Look for the deals but don’t let it be a deal breaker. Small retailers know that it is difficult to compete with the big box stores when it comes to prices. But many will give deals when they can. But where they can beat them is in service and knowledge. Remember, they will usually go the extra mile to make you a regular customer throughout the year.
  • Don’t overlook shops on sites such as Etsy.
  • Look for deals on shipping. Many small businesses are happy to ship your gifts for free. But ask first.

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