The Business of Bringing Back Businesses

Fashion Fair, the beloved cosmetics company, went bankrupt in 2018. But in June 2022, the firm, which Pulitzer prize winner Lynn Nottage said “represented Black beauty, it represented sophistication, and it was the first makeup that I ever tried on in the mirror,” was resurrected. This is part of a current economic trend in which Black businesswomen opt to revive a legacy brand rather than start a new company from scratch. In some instances, Black entrepreneurs are launching companies based on known white-owned firms that unfairly used images of Black people as part of their branding and merchandising.

Like Fashion Fair, Madam (originally known as Madam C.J. Walker), the Black hair care brand, revamped both the external elements of their products, like packaging and advertising, as well as the actual production processes. Even with these changes, Fashion Fair and Madam still focus on the shared historic mission of each company: bringing wealth, access, and prestige to Black communities, particularly women.

McKinsey study found that Black-founded and Black-owned beauty brands comprised 2.5 percent of 2021 revenue in that industry; Black consumers spent 11.1 percent, the equivalent of $6.6 billion, on beauty products. While spurred mostly by need, as a way of ensuring the employment and safety of Black Americans in the dark era of Jim Crow laws, Black-owned businesses are a historic and iconic representation of pride. Historian Juliet E.K. Walker describes the time as the “Golden Age of Black Business,” when Black-owned businesses grew across the U.S.

The newest iterations of the company are also updated for today’s consumer interests. The Madam formula, for example, has been revised to substitute petroleum, which is derived from crude oil, from the products’ hair and scalp treatment recipes.

In some instances, Black entrepreneurs are redressing historic wrongs of white-owned companies that feature images of Black domestic workers in their logos and images. Rapper and entrepreneur Percy Miller, known as Master P, restarted his Uncle P’s line of pancake mixes and rice in response to this trend. He recalls how his grandmother used to favor brands featuring Black people, but as he grew he came to realize “that Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were models, and none of the proceeds from these brands went back to helping the community and their families; it was just pure mockery.” In an attempt to remedy these historical injustices, Miller sources rice for his products from Ghana; some profits are earmarked for programs serving low-income children and the elderly in New Orleans and St. Louis. A picture of Miller himself, in sunglasses, is affixed on Uncle P’s products.

America’s Minority Groups: How are they Faring

It is important to keep tabs on how minority groups in America are faring, particularly since Kim Hart recently pointed out that the country:

“is more racially diverse than at any point in history, and racial minorities are becoming more geographically dispersed than ever before.”

Hispanics and Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial  minority groups.  Plus the white population has seen a mere 0.1% growth since 2010 (as opposed to Hispanics at 18,6% and Asian Americans at 27.4% during the same time frame) with projected further decline moving forward.

At the moment of this writing we are currently in the middle of National Hispanic Month, a celebration instituted in 1968 originally known as Hispanic Heritage Week.  The idea behind this is to celebrate and recognize the contributions of the Hispanic community to America.  Now it continues for a month annually between September 15 to October 15. This year’s theme is “Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation.”

In particular, the Hispanics are making a huge contribution to Hampton Roads in leadership capacities in business, education, faith, politics, military and more.  They are giving back disproportionately more to their communities than others.  Further, Hispanics have possession of 2.1 percent (573) of the 27,270 businesses operating in the region.  According to SimIS Inc. Hispanic founder and owner Johnny Garcia:

“The potential for Hispanics to grow our economy is enormous. The Hispanic community is the fastest-growing segment of the immigrant population. Clearly, Hispanic Americans will continue to play an important role, as our nation faces the challenges of the 21st century.”

In addition, there was a drop to 2.1 percent in unemployment figures for Asian Americans living in America in June of 2019. This is the lowest it has been since 2003 and indicates that this demographic is now looking (and finding) work in mainstream industries.  And, according to Kayleigh McEnanay, one of Trump’s campaign spokespersons:

“The Asian American community has never been stronger than under President Trump’s leadership.  Millions of Asian Americans have secured access to the strongest economy in modern history, with the Asian American unemployment rate hitting a record low under the leadership of President Trump.”

Economics and the Gender Disparity

US economics: gender disparity

Despite major strides having been made in closing the gender gap in many industries, it still remains and in some sectors, quite substantially too.  This was a key area of discussion at the annual American Economic Association which took place earlier this month

Attended by thousands of economists, each year – hundreds of whom delivered their papers – this year’s event had a definite underlying theme; the gender disparity that continues to exist in global economics.  Keynote speeches on where today’s economy is at were given by Jay Powell, current chair of the US Federal Reserve as well as past chairs, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen.

according to a paper presented last year by Alice Wu on Gender Stereotyping in Academy, when it comes to the principal economic jobs’ online forum, there is clear discrimination against female economists with 85 percent of full economic professors being men.  in addition, the Nobel Prize for Economics has only been awarded to a woman one time and over the last two decades, only a third of women hold positions as economic majors nationwide.

Another example of existing chauvinistic attitudes was found in a study brought up in an interview with Bell Award winner Rohini Pande.  she referred to a study  which proved how men advance in economics and gain tenure for both authoring and co-authoring papers whereas their female counterparts only get it when authoring.  the assumption made is that a female co-author has not undertaken the research; only the man.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Annual Global Gender Gap Report, “it will take 108 years to close the gender gap worldwide according to today’s criteria. When the index was first conceived in 2006, assessing countries on their progress in four areas – economic opportunity, education, health and survival, and political empowerment – it was hoped there would be a vast improvement in both the opportunities and rewards offered to women.”

This timeline is clearly unacceptable and of the 149 countries surveyed, the average gender gap remains too large – at 32 percent.

Minorities Thriving in the US Business World

Minorities in America are making it in 2018. At least, that seemed to be somewhat the conclusion of a recent Guidant Financial survey. Minority 2018 Small Business Trends – together with Lending Club – surveyed 2,600 business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Minority business owners in America have increased substantially in just 12 months. Indeed, the finding showed that:

“The number of African American small business owners in the United States has increased by a staggering 400% in just a year.”

In 2015, a mere 15 percent of business owners were from minority ethnic groups. So it really has come a long way.

Still though, there is work to be done. Out of the small business owners (black) only 37 percent were women. But at least movement is in the right direction. According to Guidant Financial’s CEO, David Nilssen:

“Growth amongst all minorities including women is promising in America as small business ownership becomes more favorable and easier to attain. We anticipate and hope to see a continued increase.”

Lack of capital is generally what keeps more individuals in minority groups from pursuing their dream of becoming a Small Business Owner. Thus more resources should be created to rectify this.