Black History Month: Honoring Past, Present, and Future Black Entrepreneurs
Honoring Past, Present, and Future Black Entrepreneurs
Initiated by the eminent historian Carter G. Woodson and other leading Black Americans, Black History Month has been celebrated in February since 1976. During the month, we gather to celebrate the history, culture, and contributions of Black Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and business landscape.
Despite facing challenges throughout our nation's history, Black entrepreneurs have made a lasting impact on the business world. Thomas Jennings was the first Black patent holder for the prototype of modern dry-cleaning in 1820. Garrett Morgan developed the three-position traffic signal in 1923. Around the turn of the 20th century, Madam C.J. Walker created products for African American hair care and was one of the first American woman to become a self-made millionaire. And in the mid-1960s, Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the first home security system. She is also credited with the invention of the first closed-circuit television.
Black entrepreneurs have proven and continue to prove their tenacity against all odds. Even against the challenges caused by racial discrimination, recessions, and COVID-19 –– which has shuttered 41% Black-owned businesses –– growth in entrepreneurship is up 99% among Black women. In fact, 36.1% of all Black-owned businesses are headed by women. This is the highest share of businesses within any racial or ethnic group.
At Optimum Business, we value the significant contributions of Black entrepreneurs, especially during these challenging times. Our company-wide commitment is to provide the connectivity solutions that support these digital transformations and help our small business community thrive again. In partnership with the Coalition to Back Black Businesses, we are also helping Black business owners receive much needed financial support and mentorship from industry and subject-matter experts.
We are giving back to almost 200 small businesses that are following in the footsteps of ground-breaking Black luminaries and continuing to pay it forward through this initiative. For example, BAABS Beauty supports their North Carolina community by offering paid internships to local college students and free annual self-esteem and confidence-building events for 4 to 13-year-old girls. PiperWai, a Brooklyn-based company, is redefining the future of everyday essentials, and raised money for meal donations during the COVID-19 outbreak by quickly producing and selling a CDC-approved rinse-free hand gel. In partnership with The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH), PiperWai provided the equivalent of 2,000 meals and over 1,000 hand sanitizers. Finally, Usable Tech Co in New Jersey has helped other small businesses acquire funding during the pandemic. They say, “through mentorship and literal handholding, we have helped over 1,200 businesses get PPP, EIDL loans and other grant opportunities stating. This has been service well spent."
This Black History Month, we are honoring past innovators, celebrating the present with inspiring stories from Black-owned businesses, and focusing on how we can support the future of Black entrepreneurship with the launch of our Digital Toolkit. It will provide free resources and expert advice to help small business owners promote their brands and grow their customer bases. Whether a small business is looking for tools to promote their business through Social Media or Email Marketing or looking to gain a few tips from industry experts, the Optimum Business Toolkit will be a valuable resource that will take them to the next level.