I was honored to participated in a roundtable discussion on Zoom this past weekend, hosted by the Southern California Business and Professional Women’s group and spearheaded by Wanda Barnett Street, M.D., Chair, and Attorney Sheila Bankhead Grisham, Co-chair. The participants were comprised of businesswomen and included Arnetta Mack of Mack Enterprises; Diane Crouch and Shavon Codio, Real Estate and Mary Kay; Attorney Margo Bouchet; and Attorney Nekishal Spinner, Law and Culinary Enterprise. Out of the 6 participants, I was the only male. We shared how we got started in business and some of the ups and downs, pitfalls, and tips on how to survive during turbulent times. All acknowledged that we received support from family, friends, and mentors.
A lot of people don’t seem to understand that black-owned businesses are owned by black people. There seems to be a belief that black-owned businesses are businesses where blacks work. However, we realize that a gardening business or a restaurant where only Mexicans work is a Mexican-owned business. If Jet and Ebony Magazines were purchased by Prince Harry, they would become British-owned businesses, even if fifty percent of the employees were still black.
What bothers me is our young people don’t want to do menial jobs such as gardening, because they don’t want to do the work. They sit in the house, in front of the television or computer, while young Mexicans are outside doing the work on their lawn and making money.
We see at the Hospitals, pharmacies, and construction jobs where young Mexican women serve as nurses or hotel workers and maids, while young black women seem more interested in hair, make-up, and nails. Why? Maid services thrive. Gardeners become Landscapers, and Janitorial services grow into corporate entities hiring hundreds of people. Little by little, we see women who are working in the trades. Recently, we had a woman roofer replace a roof on one of our properties. Black workers are hard to find. There are few black plumbers and electricians. For years, we seem to have outgrown all these businesses, or just gotten lazy!
I’ve yet to run into a woman performing these jobs. With the large number of businesses closing and those unemployed during the pandemic, we need to reconsider some of these jobs. Most all of these jobs used to be entry-level jobs. Now they seem to be throwaway jobs. They seem to be the work that no one will take unless you speak a foreign language. So black men take to hanging out on street corners or become homeless, begging and seeking nickels and dimes on street corners. Black men and women, here is your Plan B.
Those of you who read this column on a regular basis know how my mother transformed a selling hand-me-downs into a thriving, profitable thrift store, over a forty-year period, with family support. There are women who had no family support and who have not been successful at owning their own business. We all need to support them. Unfortunately, too many women open a store, beauty salon, or daycare center only to have the man in their life sabotage them. One woman I know who opened her store was confronted with accusations from her jealous husband, saying that all her male customers were there for reasons not related to clothing, furniture, or household goods. Because of the accusations, her business failed. Another woman was asked to leave the beauty salon where she worked as a beauty operator because her husband would come and sit in the shop all day, on his off days, making the customers feel uncomfortable. Women suffering from lack of support by jealous and controlling men are forced to become dependent on their men. This is a tragic story that occurs more often than we know.
Insecure husbands don’t seem to understand that the income their wives bring home provides a new stream of income for the family. Too often, due to lack of support, their business dreams are destroyed. Strangely, the dream of a family’s male leader is rarely put down. This type of discrimination is generally reserved for the female. These men make statements indicating their wife’s businesses couldn’t possibly make a living or a reasonable amount of money and that her business is just a hobby. If they stopped to think about it, it seems like they are saying to the world that they married a woman who is unworthy of praise and not smart enough to run a business. This reflection on men, and to some extent on society, is a sad commentary on attitudes about women in business. Hopefully, this will change, as we see more women roofers and other women in the trades. Thankfully, we see single black women moving up the ladder of success in professions and businesses of all kinds. They are great role models for our young girls, so let’s support them.