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Black Business Owners Hope for Support Beyond Holidays

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In 2014, Kenya McKnight-Ahad, pictured, founded the Black Women's Wealth Alliance. (Photo courtesy of Sharolyn Hagen).
In 2014, Kenya McKnight-Ahad, pictured, founded the Black Women's Wealth Alliance. (Photo courtesy of Sharolyn Hagen).
December 21, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- The holiday shopping season is winding down, but a Minnesota group said consumers still should keep Black-owned businesses in mind for last-minute gifts.

And after this year's racial reckoning, there are renewed calls for long-term support from customers as well as banks.

It's been more than six months since the police killing of George Floyd.

Kenya McKnight-Ahad, CEO and founder of the Black Women's Wealth Alliance, which has helped more than 200 women of color start businesses across the region, said those who made pledges to stand with the Black community can take a big step by supporting these entrepreneurs.

She added online purchases could transform a lot of smaller companies just starting out.

"We're so used to doing business hand-to-hand," McKnight-Ahad explained. "We have passion businesses. We work from our cultural spaces. And now, we're having to engage this online presence that we have a lot of deficits in."

She noted broader customer support could help cover the cost of these investments.

Through Dec. 31, the alliance has a special digital marketplace showcasing Black women-owned businesses.

McKnight-Ahad said some regional banks and foundations have followed through on their social-justice goals, but she said many are short-term, and longer commitments still are needed, as well as more assistance in obtaining any new relief aid from Congress.

A recent analysis by the Federal Reserve found just 20% of loans from this year's Paycheck Protection Program reached areas with a high concentration of Black-owned companies.

McKnight-Ahad stressed there was a big disconnect with that rescue effort.

"It was a lot of different criteria that most sole proprietors don't have access to," McKnight-Ahad contended.

She added banks need to do a better job of creating access to accounts and providing education, making it easier for Black-owned businesses to qualify for relief programs.

Economists say the entrepreneurs already were at a disadvantage before the pandemic and have taken a major hit to their bottom line since the crisis unfolded.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN