I’ll admit it: I get a little sad when I hear Black folk talk about their reluctance to support Black-owned businesses – whether due to a perceived lack of quality or adequate customer service. Not only is it unfair, usually they have no idea how much they’re missing out.
With a whopping 2.4 million Black women-owned businesses in the U.S. in 2018 – mine being one of them – what I know for sure is that I could not have achieved the success I have without other Black businesses.
I started my travel company, Up in the Air Life in 2013 because, despite the number of Black travel groups cropping up back then, there were none catering to Black people like me who craved affordable luxury travel. I simply didn’t see myself in the advertisements, commercials and magazines I felt we deserved to be in, living our best lives, like other Americans abroad.
Most of my fellow business owners and friends didn’t either which is why from the very beginning of my journey, I chose to work almost exclusively with other small Black-owned businesses. From an economic perspective, it was important to me to take Black dollars and spend them with other Black-owned businesses and consultants. It was also important for me to help shift the narrative of what true value and quality in Black businesses look like. My strategy has literally paid off in ways I did not initially foresee: Black businesses have helped my company gross a couple million dollars and counting.
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My personal often unsung heroes include:
○ Rasheed Dennis, my ace and premiere trip curator who has helped me build and promote trips from Paris to Brazil
○ Ian Chestnut, who designed our initial website and back-end
○ Ronn Rich, the designer who built our existing site
○ Marketing consultant Whitney Mari, who developed our branding and designed our videos and coordinated other imagery in the early days
○ Marketing consultant Dawn-Marie Nesbitt who currently manages our campaigns and ads
○ Copywriter Jarius Eden who helps write our emails and blog posts
○ Publicist Tomika Anderson who helps us tell our story
I could go on, but hopefully, you get the point, and that without each other Up in the Air Life and its partner companies, wouldn’t have had the success we have had to date. Moreover, we wouldn’t be in the position we are to create that which we have always sought and deserved as a diasporic family: true economic freedom. Consultant Whitney Mari is such a great story in this regard. As one of the founders of 19th and Park, when we met she was an editor at Essence. Now she’s being featured in Forbes. See how this works?
So for those of you who will start a business this year or seek to grow the one you already have, remember to take a chance on Black businesses the way you’d like for consumers to take a chance on you. Expect greatness from any vendor you hire and be firm in your expectations of them but also prioritize patronizing these businesses to contribute to Black wealth building.
And seek to shatter the stereotype: make customer service your calling card. It’s mine: at Up in the Air Life we bend over backward to make sure our clients are satisfied, taking seriously all client feedback and continually and consistently looking for opportunities to improve. I’ve also found belonging to an ecosystem of Black businesses similarly focused on excellence allows us to share “world-class” business practices and policies, particularly among those of us in the same or related fields. Through Facebook groups or other social media channels, I frequently connect with fellow travel founders and we share resources, contact information, and other tools for the greater good: to make sure our consumers get our best. You – make that we – all deserve that.
Written by Claire Soares