There has never been a better time for minorities to step out on faith and begin contributing to the private-sector by beginning their own companies. With organizations like the Minority Business Development Agency and the 8(a) Business Development Program targeting minorities and companies that may not have adequate resources to compete on a national level, African Americans now have more opportunities than ever to do for themselves.
Providing a lifeline for the state, small businesses account for 52.4 percent of all private-sector jobs in Maryland in 2008, playing a major part in the state economy. Of these businesses with 500 employers or less, the latest studies released by the Small Business Administration (SBA) show that companies owned and operated by minorities have significantly grown since 1992, with a 47.1 percent increase marked in 2007.
"As we look at new ways of growing our economy, the SBA is committed to supporting small and minority suppliers," said Marie Johns, deputy administrator of the SBA in speech to National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), a national coalition of groups that provide certification and opportunities for development for minority businesses.
Pointing to a lack of information as one reason minority businesses struggle, Johns said "to eliminate the information gap, the SBA works with organizations like NMSDC to make sure small businesses have the information they need."
According to the 2007 Economic Census on Minority and Women-Owned Businesses, minorities play such an important role in the economy that in Maryland alone there are 102,130 businesses owned by African Americans, creating $6.8 billion in sales for the state. The State of the African-American Consumer Report released this month by Nielson, a global information analysis company, predicts that the buying power of the African American population will climb to $1.1 trillion annually by 2015. While the buying power of African Americans may be “a figure larger than the GDP of most countries in the world,” most are reluctant to funnel that money into a savings account or a new business that will create opportunities and provide services to black communities.
Citing a fear of taking on what seems like the monumental task of becoming a "minority small business owner," entrepreneurs such as Iris Craig of SkinScents by IrisMarie experienced a bit of anxiety when thinking about becoming licensed business owners. Eventually overcoming her fear, Craig said “It gives you a little more pride- knowing that you own something yourself.”
SkinScents, a line of bath, body, and hair care products was born in 2008 out of Craig’s own need to break away from products on the national market laden with fragrances and chemicals too harsh for own her skin. After making her own products for 13 years, a cousin finally convinced Craig to go into business herself after making gift basket sets for a baby shower.
“We don’t own the hair care products that are made specifically for us but it’s important that we give to ourselves and to one another,” said Craig, who now specializes in baskets and goody bags for bridal showers, birthdays, and special events.
African Americans aren't the only minorities experiencing a jump in contributions to the small business workforce. Hispanic Americans created $4.4 billion for the state in 2007 from 25,746 businesses across Maryland, even as Asians lead the minority business category with 35,981 businesses producing $11.4 billion in revenue.