Being an entrepreneur is hard no matter who you are. It takes a lot of support and quite a bit of luck to be a successful business owner. The playing field isn’t always level.
“From Reconstruction, to Jim Crow, to the present day, our economy has never worked fairly for Black Americans — or, really, for any American of color,” Treasury secretary Janet Yellen put it.
Building wealth is the path to generational prosperity in the U.S., yet consistently Blacks and other communities of color have encountered obstacles to wealth building, from legal hurdles to more subtle forms of discrimination. Business ownership is one of the best ways to build the kind of wealth that changes lives and destinies.
That’s why programs like the Path to 15|55 are working to help Black-owned businesses grow and thrive. “If just 15% of Black-owned businesses are able to hire one more employee, the American economy could grow by $55 billion,” the program states, and so that is their goal.
We’ve seen the success and the impact Black-owned businesses can have when they’re given the resources to thrive. We’re inspired by the life and career of entrepreneurs like Sheila C. Johnson, co-founder of BET and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, the first Black woman to be a partner or owner is three pro sports franchises (the Washington Capitals of the NHL, Wizards of the NBA, and Mystics of the WNBA).
The hospitality industry “is a living laboratory of cultures,” Johnson said in her 2020 keynote speech to Virtuoso Travel Week attendees. “Because (we) already employ such a diverse cross-section of people – people of all different colors, cultures, languages, backgrounds, and religions – we have a gigantic head start in learning how to fix this country’s single most burning social issue today, namely race or racism in America.”
We also admire the spirit of inclusion that drives businesses like Boston’s The Urban Grape, the 2021 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Small Business of the Year. The Urban Grape’s Wine Studies Award for Students of Color helps young wine enthusiasts break into what has traditionally been a closed-off elitist industry.
“If someone can see themselves in this space, if they can increase their comfort level with an archaic industry where a lot of places are 250 years old or more, that’s what we’re going for,” owner TJ Douglas told BOSS.
Each of us can do at least a little to support Black-owned businesses, even if it’s just by enjoying a bottle of wine in a beautiful hotel room.