Black women launch new businesses more often than any other group in the nation. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City went to the source to find out what motivates them to take the leap. Black Women Business Startups, by Dell Gines, a senior community development advisor, offers a research-driven look at black women business owners, their business insights, and ideas for increasing the number, strength and growth of businesses owned by black women.
Black women created nearly 1 million new businesses
The number of businesses owned by black women grew by 179 percent – nearly 1 million businesses – from 2002 to 2012. In comparison, businesses owned by all women increased 52 percent while the overall growth rate in the United States was 20 percent. To gain insight into this growth, the KC Fed hosted 34 women in five focus groups in the cities of Denver, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Omaha and Wichita.
Pushed by dissatisfaction, pulled by opportunity
Many of the women in the focus groups said the catalyst for starting a business is poor treatment in the workplace or a desire to pursue a passion or opportunity. Attendees shared two major entrepreneurial traits: self-learning and determination. As one woman said, “You must keep going for it, otherwise, you’ll always deal with that fear stage and that will keep you stuck.”
Most of the women said they face a host of challenges, the biggest of which was their own lack of general business knowledge. For example, about 77 percent of black women business owners are first-time business owners. They also reported they had trouble gaining enough financing, identifying their target market, and dealing with fear.
But while businesses owned by black women are much smaller on average than those owned by other groups, their contribution to national and state economies is growing. Sales receipts at businesses owned by black women more than doubled from 2002 to 2012, from $20 billion to $42 billion.
Learning from experience
The KC Fed asked focus group participants, “What do you wish was available to you when you started your business?” They said they wished for four things: access to general and specific business knowledge, mentoring, peer engagement and financial resources.
The study also includes a series of recommendations, based on insights from the focus groups, designed to help build local ecosystems that support black women businesses. The series offers specific roles for colleges, employers, financial institutions, political leaders and more.
Along with a luncheon in Kansas City, Gines has presented his findings at events in Denver, Omaha, Oklahoma City, Topeka, Tulsa and Wichita. The audiences included many black women who own businesses. “The stories I heard from them were very similar to the stories I heard from the women in the focus groups,” he said. “It tells me that our research is on target.”
What do you think should happen?
Click here to share your thoughts about how to support businesses owned by black women with study author Dell Gines.
For additional information on entrepreneurship-based economic development, visit www.kansascityfed.org/community/smallbusiness.