By Brian Delk
The New York City Department of Small Businesses Services (SBS) unveiled an online business directory listing over 3,300 Black-owned businesses across the city. The SBS’s Black Entrepreneurs NYC (BE NYC) spearheaded the endeavor.
While Black people comprise 22% of the New York City population, they only own 2% of the city’s small businesses. Supporters of the website called the Shop Black initiative positive for the community, entrepreneurs, and the general economy. The launch of the directory also coincided with the historic Black holiday, Juneteenth, which celebrates the liberation of slavery for all people across the United States.
“When we support our Black-owned small businesses, we support the entire city,” said Kevin D. Kim, commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services. “The Shop Black NYC directory serves to boost Black entrepreneurship by encouraging New Yorkers and tourists alike to shop Black and shop local, which in turn allows our neighborhoods to grow and prosper as new businesses take root.”
SBS created BE NYC in 2019 to address racial disparities between entrepreneurs and generate more Black-owned businesses. The organization obtains this goal by developing Black entrepreneurs in emerging industries, connecting with community members, and giving access to equitable financing.
Before the inception of this director, there was no central list of Black-owned businesses in New York City outside of the state’s certified Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises. Kenneth Ebie, BE NYC’s Executive Director & Chief Development Officer, was tasked with creating the comprehensive list of companies.
He said this initiative will help Black-owned businesses generate revenue through an online presence. BE NYC will add businesses to the directory through social media promotions and its relationships with the borough chambers of commerce, as well as from its engagement with communities at events and activities across the city.
“The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce is proud to partner with the New York City Department of Small Business Services as it announces that it has reached an outstanding milestone of having 300,000-plus businesses to be listed on its Shop Black NYC Directory,” said President of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce Lloyd Williams. “Congratulations to the amazing SBS Commissioner Kevin Kim and his outstanding associate, Kenneth Ebie.”
Growing Black businesses is an arduous and necessary task to reach equity in one of the largest economies in the world. More than one in five New Yorkers are, yet they still lack the necessary funds, education, and experience to survive in this market, according to BE NYC’s 2020 report.
The report found that while the majority of Black-owned businesses started with a passion for business ownership, many vital factors challenged success. Access to capital, guidance, customer outreach, and affordable workspaces were the critical limitations to starting their businesses. With the help of BE NYC and its community partners, the initiative aims to demystify the process and help entrepreneurs follow their passions.
“Knowledge is power,” Ebie said. “With Shop Black NYC, we are empowering all New Yorkers with access to information on over 3,300 local Black-owned local businesses that they can support during this important holiday and throughout the year. Equally importantly, listed businesses will benefit from a direct pipeline of valuable information and business resources available from SBS, supporting their ability to survive, thrive and continue to enrich the fabric of our great City.”