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Small businesses are the backbone of our communities. They supply and care for our families, support economic growth and stability, and foster meaningful relationships with the people they serve. Nobody understands the value of small businesses more than those who live in communities that are most likely to experience disinvestment and neglect from corporate investors — which are disproportionately communities of color.
These small businesses are also most often owned and operated by Black entrepreneurs and other entrepreneurs of color. Despite their value to their communities, racial inequities persist, and many Black-owned small businesses lack the financial resources necessary to grow and survive an economic crisis.
Luckily, in today’s tech-driven economy, Black small business owners have new digital tools to help their businesses survive, thrive and stand out among corporate competitors. Here are three reasons Black small business leaders should meet this moment and embrace digital transformation.
1. Improving agility
Businesses that rely on foot traffic to reach clientele were hit hardest by pandemic-related shutdowns. The needs and interests of business leaders and their clients drastically changed, and those without the infrastructure to adapt to our new normal were at the greatest risk. As experts continue to signal that we’re nearing an economic recession, agility becomes increasingly necessary for the survival of small businesses.
When small business leaders adopt digital tools and infrastructure, it allows them to shift quickly to ensure they can continue providing services to their customers. Whether through eCommerce websites or social media campaigns, digital adoption can help small businesses stay afloat amid global economic disruption. If business leaders start planning and implementing digital strategies now, they will be better prepared to meet whatever challenges they face next.
2. Expanding customer base
One of the many reasons Black-owned businesses struggled to survive amid the pandemic was due to the direct economic impact it had on the people they serve. Many Black-owned businesses operate in predominantly Black communities, which are disproportionately affected by job loss and illness spurred by COVID-19 because of economic and healthcare disparities.
Business leaders have to seek new ways to expand their customer base. Digitizing operations can open new markets for small businesses to explore, which generates more significant growth opportunities. Through online advertising, cloud computing and mobile commerce, small business leaders can extend their reach beyond local communities and into national or global markets. This will not only advance the success of small businesses but also ensure they are still around to serve their communities well after an economic crisis hits.
3. Leveling the playing field
Corporate competitors routinely receive more investment than small businesses, which means they have the resources to position themselves as better service providers. Small business leaders can stand out among corporate competition when investing in digital tools. These tools offer a more efficient means for handling inventory management, data analysis and marketing automation — resulting in faster turnaround times and better decision-making processes.
Small businesses, especially Black-owned ones, often lack the financial capital and investments needed to innovate and keep up with their larger competitors. The good news is there is support for small business leaders, especially those who are shut out of financial opportunities due to pre-existing racial inequities.
One of the groups I work with, the Small Business Digital Alliance (SBDA), connects small business owners with digital tools, training, and other opportunities to reach new customers by expanding their digital networks. Services and resources provided by the SBDA can help small businesses adopt digital strategies to grow and sustain their businesses – and they are free of charge to those within the network. This can help small businesses better understand the needs of their customers and quickly fulfill their expectations. By investing in digital solutions, small businesses can level the playing field and put themselves on equal footing with larger corporations.
There is no way to predict an economic crisis’s impact on our businesses, but we can take steps to prepare and mitigate risks. Beyond business survival, going digital offers many advantages for Black small business leaders who want to stay competitive in an increasingly tech-driven landscape.