Community Connections Spotlight: SOW & REAP Physical Therapy
This Black History Month, we celebrate Black entrepreneurs and empower Black-owned businesses with tools for growth and a grant in partnership with the Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB). Learn about the economic growth of black-owned businesses, support provided by the CBBB, and grant recipient La Tonya Mister below.
Black History Month has been celebrated in the United States every February since 1976 when President Gerald Ford extended the recognition to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” At Optimum Business, we dedicate the month to honoring our nation’s Black history and recognizing the sacrifices, hard work, and contributions made by Black entrepreneurs.
Black-owned businesses are crucial to growing the U.S. economy. In fact, recent studies show Black-owned companies have an economic impact of more than $1.4 billion annually. And even against the challenges caused by racial discrimination, recessions, and COVID-19, which has shuttered 41% Black-owned businesses, within these last few years, the percentage of active Black business owners has grown steadily, indicating a 33% increase in Black male business owners from the first quarter of 2020 to the third quarter of 2021. This marked the highest percentage change among all demographics. Interestingly, the second-highest percent change was among Black female active business owners during the same time, at 22%.
However, although Black entrepreneurship is on the rise, Black founders still contend with significant challenges to their growth and profitability. Research shows that minority-owned businesses often have higher borrowing costs, receive smaller loans, and are more likely to have their loan applications rejected than white-owned businesses. Thus, it’s imperative that Black business owners have access to resources and funding that will help them achieve and sustain business success.
At Optimum Business, we value the significant contributions of Black entrepreneurs and proudly announce, this Black History Month, that as part of our ongoing partnership with the Coalition to Back Black Business (CBBB), we have provided 93 $5,000 grants to Black-owned small businesses across 40 states to support their growth and long-term success.
The Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB) is a multi-year initiative to support Black-owned small businesses and the communities they serve as they recover from the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and chart a path forward. The Coalition was established in September 2020 by American Express, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Business League, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., and Walker’s Legacy. With assistance from companies like Optimum Business, CBBB is distributing nearly $14 million in grants and long-term mentorship and resources to empower Black small business owners across the country through 2024.
Recent grant recipient Dr. LaTonya Mister, founder of SOW & REAP Physical Therapy, can continue to help those coping with traditional and pelvic orthopedic issues with the support of a CBBB grant from Optimum Business.
Dr. Mister started her business to help those suffering from pelvic issues. Since pelvic physical therapy is not as well-known as traditional physical therapy, Dr. Mister wanted those suffering in silence from treatable pelvic floor issues to know that help is available. She says, “I believe the older members of our community feel more comfortable with a healthcare provider that looks like them. They feel like that provider can relate to them on a more personal level.”
For Dr. Mister, representation is important for all, especially the Black community. She was driven by a desire to show other African Americans a Black woman-owned businesses in healthcare. “There are few black physical therapists and even fewer owning their own practice. Seeing other black-owned P.T. clinics can inspire those wanting to enter our profession not to give up,” states Dr. Mister.
In founding SOW & REAP Physical Therapy, the biggest roadblock Dr. Mister encountered was finding a location within her budget. She had to quickly learn that everything was negotiable. “Having patience and making numerous calls to several property owners helped me find a location within my budget. If I had taken the first location that I saw, I would have overpaid and been in more debt, which would have been horrible. It took over a year to find my new location,” Dr. Mister shared. Thankfully, she received the CBBB grant around the same time SOW & REAP was relocating. The $5000 CBBB grant helped the practice purchase new equipment for the new location. “That was a huge relief for me, and I was so thankful to receive the grant at that time,” says Dr. Mister.
It is vital for new business owners to keep their overhead low and start with the least amount of debt possible, recommends Dr. Mister. This will allow a business to reach break-even quicker. Plus, grants are available to help with funding, such as the one Dr. Mister received from the CBBB. “One can also reach out to family and friends for financial support to reduce debt and help with overhead costs,” Dr. Mister advises.
Dr. Mister knew it was the right time to grow and expand her business, when she could afford a more prominent location. It was helpful for her to have someone with a financial background on her team, someone to help her understand her finances and determine the best time to expand. She suggests that if you have to pay for this service, “find someone that will work with your budget or pay on an as-needed basis.”
When the pandemic struck, technology allowed SOW & REAP Physical Therapy to adapt to the changes it brought. Being able to promote the business on social media was a tremendous business driver. When everything went virtual during COVID, Dr. Mister was able to continue networking and educating others about SOW & REAP Physical Therapy services through technology. “In healthcare, we have to document every treatment that we complete, so a great electronic medical record (EMR) system that includes billing and patient scheduling keeping all of your data in one central location is imperative and critical to keep up and running,” states Dr. Mister.
Dr. Mister encourages Black founders to never stop learning and attending business courses, even just refresher courses. She stresses the importance of creating your business systems. “Either have a video recording or written manual of all aspects of your business from how you start your morning to how you close at the end of the day. This will make it easier to train your future employees,” asserts Dr. Mister. She also emphasizes the importance of journaling. “One thing I wish I would have done sooner was journaling. Journaling allows me to have all of my thoughts and my to-do list in one location.”
Dr. Mister advises other Black founders to network, research, and network again. “I was told once that sometimes it's not what you know, but who you know. I can't agree with this statement more. I have received help and advice from people all over the country, and I am forever thankful to those individuals,” states Dr. Mister. “It's important to have a group of like-minded individuals around you while starting a business. Those individuals will help you stay focused on those hard, long days.”
It is through the continued patronage of our customers that we are able to support small businesses through efforts like the CBBB grant partnership, and give back to the community. We are always grateful for your loyalty.
To read more stories from small businesses like you or find solutions to meet your growing business needs, check out the Optimum Business Digital Toolkit.