In June, when our national reckoning on racial justice sparked widespread interest in supporting Black-owned businesses, my sales skyrocketed. The unwavering support from social media is what made 2020 my best year in business yet. It allowed me to upgrade my machinery, and get even closer to my goal of hiring workers and having my own studio.
While the online economy has helped me stay afloat during this difficult time, I know that isn’t true for everyone. Black-owned businesses are highly concentrated in retail and restaurants — industries that are most affected by shutdowns and social distancing.
And though we’ve needed more help, we’ve been less likely to get it: Only 12% of Black-owned businesses received the federal COVID-19 assistance they requested, compared to half of small businesses overall.
That’s sadly par for the course in a country where systemic racism is alive and well, and Black entrepreneurs have a much harder time getting access to capital and other supports they need to start and grow new businesses — or to survive downturns like we’re in now.
The internet could change all of that. In my experience, the online economy is everything. Before 2013, I never had started a business, but Etsy was a quick and easy option for a newcomer like me who wanted to reach people outside my immediate circles.