Below are some of the most popular black-owned businesses you should be aware of and an in-depth breakdown of how they’ve survived — and thrived — during the whirlwind of the past few years.
1. BeautyStat Cosmetics
BeautyStat was founded by chemist Ron Robinson in 2019. This former Clinique chemist has created a brand and line of skin care products earning him a lot of support and buzz in social media — notably with its vitamin C serum.
When the pandemic started, Ron felt confident in BeautyStat’s staying power due to it being a direct-to-consumer brand and not relying on in-store sales. While they saw a dip in sales initially, they got back on track with new marketing messaging and some cost-cutting.
2. Partake Foods
Founded by Denise Woodard, Partake is a snack food company. While Denise admits to being nervous when the pandemic started, Partake Foods thrived due to the increased interest in Black-owned businesses after the murder of George Floyd.
Denise seeks to pay forward the success by donating 10 percent of the total website sales to the Food Equality Initiative. Denise also helps raise awareness about Black and female entrepreneurship and increases the opportunity for those seeking growth in the food industry.
3. Blk & Bold Coffee
Founded by Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson in 2017, Blk and Bold specialty beverages is a coffee company that produces great-tasting coffee and supports community youth programs. The company donates 5 percent of profits back to the community. These reinvested profits go toward helping prepare young people through development and “initiatives aligned to sustaining youth programs, enhancing workforce development, with eradicating youth homelessness.”
COVID led the company to have to slow down production, but within a matter of 90 days, they saw increased online traffic. Blk & Bold Coffee has survived due to its ability to remain agile and resilient.
4. Fresh Pawz
Whoever said dogs can’t go out for their walks in style? (And, honestly, who hasn’t dressed up their dog for Halloween?) Fresh Pawz was founded in 2018 by Christopher Cargnoni. It brings streetwear culture to the pet market. Some of their most popular items include a checkered camo dog hoodie and a neon bricks dog leash.
Fresh Pawz saw an incredible 300 percent increase in sales despite the pandemic and continues to expand its offerings with retail partners.
5. Brooklynn & Blake
Founded by Michelle Youngblood in the midst of the pandemic, the company is named after her two inspirations — daughters Brooklynn and Blake.
After dealing with an unexpected layoff during COVID, Michelle took her $10,000 severance check and followed her passion by starting a business focused on selling stylish children’s clothing — including ball dresses, twirl skirts and accessories — online.
6. The Lit Bar
This bookstore, owned by Noëlle Santos, is currently the only indie brick-and-mortar bookseller in the Bronx. It serves 1.4 million curious readers.
In 2020, the bookstore had to close due to riots in the area and a mandated shutdown in New York. Noëlle pivoted to working with a third-party company to fulfill online orders. Since then, it has reopened for browsing and hosts online virtual events.
7. R&L Crab
LaShone and RaeShawn started R&L Crab after they lost their jobs due to the COVID pandemic. Growing up in Maryland where one of the most popular foods is blue crab, the business partners (known by many as the Middletown Twins) started a business delivering steamed shellfish. Today they enjoy the fruits of their labors by operating a popular seafood restaurant and crab delivery service.
With innovative flavors like Spicy Peach, Fiery Pineapple Mango and Strawberry Balsamic, there is plenty of experiment when it comes to BBQ dishes. AubSauce is a line of small-batch artisan sauces created by Aubrey Lenyard. The company, formed in 2019, got its start through a Kickstarter campaign supported by fans.
The summer of 2020 brought a positive COVID test and Aubrey had to find new partners and co-packers. Some stores couldn’t afford to carry his products as well. Despite these setbacks, Aubrey has found new partners and retailers and has found his place once again in the BBQ sauce industry.
Impact of COVID on Black-Owned Businesses
The effects of COVID-19, job loss and lockdowns have greatly affected African-American businesses and employment. The following key stats highlight the difficulties that Black-owned businesses face as a result of the pandemic.
- According to a report by the New York Fed, nearly 50% of Black-owned businesses had shut down by the end of April 2020.
- Ownership rates dropped by 41% in Black-business ownership between February and April 2020, representing the largest rate of any racial group. (Overall active businesses fell by 22% during that same period.)
- A Main Street Alliance/Color of Change poll released in October 2020 found that only 40% of Black business owners expected to remain open over the ensuing six months. This number represents the lowest group compared to 46% of Asian, 48% of Latin and 55% of White-business owners.
By 2021, the outlook improved and things were on the upswing, with Black Businesses surging by almost 1.5 million, representing an increase of 38% since February 2020. Even with the positive spike in business creation, Black Americans haven’t been able to reap the same benefits as white Americans. This can be illustrated by the fact that although minorities make up 32% of the population, minority business ownership is only at 18%.
Where to Start a Black-Owned Business
If these Black-owned businesses inspired you and you’re ready to start your own company, being in the right location can make a difference.
The truth is some areas of the country offer a more business-friendly environment than others. Whether it’s state and city policies, community support or even the vibe of the area, some places in the country may be more conducive to startups and new business enterprises, and that can be particularly true for African-Americans and other minorities.
And it’s not all “take” as far as a business goes. Many successful Black-owned businesses play important roles in the community. That “giving back” can be hiring local employees, supporting education initiatives, beautifying neighborhoods or getting involved to help meet the fundraising needs of the community.
As you start experiencing your own business success, just like these featured Black business owners, reach out to us and share your story for a chance to be featured as our next inspiration story.