2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and small businesses across the board have taken a huge hit due to Covid-19. Of those small businesses, 9.5 percent are black-owned businesses, ones that are already at a disadvantage due to the systemic obstacles in place in the country.
Charlie McCoy is included in this data provided by the Small Business Administration, as the owner of New York City barber shops Artisan Barber and Orchard & Ludlow. McCoy’s venture into business comes from a place of being self-sufficient, and understanding that he is the only one that can solve and overcome his own problems.
Growing up, his mother was a Jehovah’s Witness who believed that salvation would come in the form of God’s government that would wipe out all of mankind’s problems. As he matured, McCoy quickly realized that this was an illusion that did not apply to him and most of his generation.
For the entrepreneur, he learned that the best way to solve his problems was to educate himself on the history African Americans, and as a businessman “understanding the significance of black businesses.”
In the 1860’s black Americans owned only one half of one percent of the nation’s wealth, fast forward to the 1990’s and it increased to one and one half percent. As of 2019, black people own 9.5 percent of businesses, with Latinos owning 12.2 percent and 70.9 percent being white-owned as explained by the Small Business Administration.
McCoy feels that as a minority, as a black person in the United States, we should try to seek ownership in fields that we consume a significant amount of space in, citing sports as one of his examples. “Sports offer a unique opportunity for black people to have success and grow businesses,” he says. “Black people are prolific consumers of sports equipment, clothing and we spend a lot of money watching sports.” According to Nielsen 2019 Diverse Intelligent Series, in general, African Americans lead media consumption across all boards.
“If more African Americans were to establish businesses it would create wealth, employment, entrepreneurship opportunities in the sports space and they could challenge the foreign manufacturers that currently control the industry,” McCoy says.
McCoy doesn’t claim to know the solutions to all the world’s problems, but as a black business owner of multiple entities, he feels that he is setting an example of tenacity and that being an entrepreneur in this climate, with all the obstacles, is possible.
“It’s important that people recognize they have the opportunity to shop with black businesses and that it’s a special thing. It’s not about extending pity or empathy, it’s that these businesses have sprouted up in the most unbearable circumstances, with the least resources and are still thriving,” he muses. “They’re diamonds if you think about it. They aren’t technically supposed to exist due to the hardships and barriers to entry; but when you see them and you see them thriving, it’s a testament to the will of the founders and the way that people have been able to overcome their circumstances.”