Black companies are booming – The Bay State Banner

Violet Francis began entertaining friends and preparing huge meals of Caribbean cuisine in the kitchen of her local church. She struggled to get a business loan at first before eventually succeeding in opening her own restaurant in 2013.

Business at Aunt Vie’s Restaurant and Bakery never really flourished until Francis said more people – including many more white people – showed up and asked how they could support their small, black-run restaurant in Dorchester. New customers order fried Johnny cakes, goat stew, jerk chicken, coconut turns, salt fish patties and other dishes from their home town of Montserrat, a small island in the British West Indies.

Violet Francis, 66, with her son Valroyce Francis, 31, in the kitchen of their Aunt Vie’s Bakery & Restaurant in Dorchester. Photo: Tori Bedford GBH News

“There was a conversation going on, especially with Black Lives Matter, and a lot of people came in and tried to support us here,” said Francis, 66. “I think they really want to support us. They want us to thrive in the community. “

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis a year ago put the spotlight on racial inequality of all forms, including the economy. The resulting conversation about race has changed where many consumers have spent their money. According to a data analysis by Yelp, searches on Yelp for black owned businesses across the country increased 3.085% from February 2020 to February 2021.

Endorsement of consumer spending has also increased – the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) released a list of local black businesses to be supported, and the message to support the black community through spending was honored at local protests and rallies from Floyd repeated last year. Owners of black businesses like Auntie Vie’s, Obosa Restaurant in Roslindale, Fusion Dolls in Brockton, Tiana Bay Boutiques in Canton, Happy Beans Coffee Roasters from Framingham and Trillfit, a gym in Roxbury, told GBH News that the extra support has been retained they are afloat to offset the financial impact of the pandemic.

“If you’re taking the necessary steps to help a small business, then I think that’s about it,” said Francis. “Not just to speak the talk, but actually to walk the path to actually see an action behind what you are saying.”

Jae’Da Turner, founder and managing director of Black Owned Bos. Marketing agency, said the ongoing effort to support local colored entrepreneurs is about a lot more than just doing the right thing.

“It doesn’t just support one company because it’s owned by Black. That’s never the point, ”said Turner. “It’s about creating those touchpoints for visibility, especially in a place like Boston where it’s extremely secluded.”

In May, Black owned Bos. launched the first of a series of outdoor summer marketplaces in Boston’s mostly white Seaport neighborhood. The goal, Turner said, is to introduce tourists and residents to local black-owned shops like Ankhara By Luciana, a home decor store run by Luciana Daily, which said it has also seen more support over the past year.

“I know my community loves my work. I know my family loves my work, “said Daily,” but when someone outside of the community comes and says, not only will I support you, but you have a great product and then recommend me to other customers, it was humiliating . “

Daily says the movement to support black-owned small businesses like yours has been affirmed and has expanded its network beyond its Mission Hill neighborhood.

“It makes corporations and white Americans think about us in places like Wellesley, Needham, or Newton, where, I mean, you don’t see many of us there,” she said.

Turner from Black Owned Bos. said events such as the outdoor markets are part of a larger effort to combat systemic racism in the business world.

“This systemic problem comes from a number of different places,” she said. “Maybe it’s credit, maybe just access to mentors, maybe access to opportunity or just role models, or access to capital, which is probably the biggest hurdle for black-owned companies.”

Last month, the Boston Foundation released a series of recommendations to improve access to capital for black-owned businesses in Massachusetts, where 18 percent of entrepreneurs are colored – but 10 percent of small business loans go to neighborhoods that are mostly colored, according to the foundation report “The Color of the Capital Gap”.

“The pandemic has shown how undercapitalized, underinvested and vulnerable many black entrepreneurs are, in large part due to systemic barriers,” the report said. “Even the government aid programs that black entrepreneurs and other underserved groups were supposed to reach have been unfairly distributed.”

The report highlights the differences in access to capital. In Massachusetts, the Foundation estimates the annual unmet capital requirement among black entrepreneurs to be at least $ 574 million.

Black entrepreneurs are less likely than white entrepreneurs to receive outside funding, and black-owned small businesses are twice as likely to receive funding they request as white entrepreneurs, according to the Foundation’s report.

That led entrepreneurs TJ and Hadley Douglas to rely on their own funding to start their Urban Grape wine shop in 2009.

“We have emptied our 401 (k) s. We have emptied our savings, ”said Douglas. “We took out a second mortgage on our house.”

When he first tried to get a business loan, Douglas was told he was too big a risk. At the time, he said he had accepted it and had made further progress.

“But you know, over the years, and especially in the last year, I look back at all the different moments in my life and think … ‘Hmm,'” said Douglas. “I think it was because I’m a minority.”

Douglas said last year the store’s sales grew about 65 percent – with a wider clientele from across the city and state starting to shop in-store.

“We have so many more customers,” he said, “and the demographics of the people who go in and out of stores and shop online and the Massachusetts areas we ship to are completely different than they were before a year.” .”

Urban Grape’s website now features collections of wines from People of Color, LGBTQ winemakers. Last summer, Douglas launched the Urban Grape Wine Studies Award to bring color students into the predominantly white world of wine.

Not everyone was happy with this shift, he noted.

“We lost some customers – there is no comparison how many customers we gained – but we lost some because they say I just want to buy wine. I don’t want to talk about you being black or a woman or anything, ”said Douglas. “And I say, ‘Okay, great. You don’t have to be in my world. ‘”

It seems that the world is getting bigger by a gradual change that could mean new business for places like Aunt Vie’s in Dorchester.

Violet Francis said she hasn’t gotten to the point of making a profit – but she hopes the current move can get her there.

“If they get ahead, we’ll get to where we hope to go,” she said. “I hope for more support from the community and how it turns out to be able to go beyond just receiving, but to be successful.”

Tori Bedford (sie / her / hers) is a reporter for WGBH News and produces the All Rev’d Up Podcast.