Black Women Business Owners In Atlanta Reflect On Increase In Interest, Impact Of Coronavirus

Nikki Porcher is the founder of Buy From A Black Woman, an Atlanta-based nonprofit.

Courtesy of Nikki Porcher

Last updated June 27, 9:31 p.m.

Atlanta resident Nikki Porcher started Buy From A Black Woman, Inc. after she went to an event for entrepreneurs in the city and didn’t see any Black-owned businesses.

That was back in 2016. The nonprofit’s directory of more than 500 Black women-owned businesses was created to raise awareness of the companies and to help fund them.

One of the challenges she has seen among these entrepreneurs is the struggle to get funding. And for some, the coronavirus pandemic is adding to their setbacks.

“So [when] Black women are starting a business, they’re bootstrapping,” Porcher said. “They’re doing what I call the waterfall effect. When we sell one product, we use a profit and that product to buy more products to sell. So we’re already at a huge disadvantage … just to start a business.”

Among Black-owned businesses, 40% “aren’t expected” to last through the coronavirus pandemic, according to CBS News.

Porcher surveyed 175 members and found that about 53% of respondents said they have seen a decrease in business during this time. 

“So as a way for the Black woman businesses to pivot, they started offering things that were essential items like the face mask and hand sanitizer to make sure that their businesses still … still grow.”

The tide has seemed to turn as there has been a recent push for consumers to support Black-owned businesses as a form of activism and support.

Porcher said this is giving her an “internal battle” because this recognition was spurred from the death of George Floyd and other unarmed Black people.

“There are Black women businesses who have been doing this work … You want people to buy your items and utilize your services,” she said. “So, you’re like, do I celebrate my win? But is it a win because of how it happened?”

Creole Secret owner Kimberly Clayton-McBee saw an uptick in new business over the last few weeks among people who recognized her aromatherapy company as being Black-owned. 

“I kind of feel like I’m glad but I just hope it’s not to appease for the moment … because it’s the hot thing to do to buy from a Black business…,” she said. “I hope it’s consistent.”

Her business is one of the few that saw a surge in sales because of COVID-19 since her aromatherapy products are used for therapeutic reasons.

On the other hand, Running Nerds is one of the businesses that is taking a hit in profits due to the pandemic. One of the ways the company gains revenue is from runners registering for races, which is out of the question right now since it is considered a large gathering, Tes Sobomehin Marshall, the business’s founder, said.

Instead, Sobomehin Marshall said they will shift to virtual runs as a way to keep the community together.

Lately, she’s been seeing more awareness of her runs on social media, especially the one called “The Race,” which is a half marathon and 5K that supports Black-owned businesses, neighborhoods and charities. People have been wanting to order The Race’s red, black and green gear.

Porcher said it isn’t enough for people to just buy a product in order to support Black entrepreneurs and communities.

“It takes more than just buying one thing to pour back into all of the … labor, the work, the blood, sweat and tears that Black people have done for this country,” she said. “There’s so much more that you need to do, and you should be willing and ready to do the work.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that Nikki Porcher is an Atlanta resident.