Strengthening the Black Business Community
with Ron Busby, Sr. of the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.
Despite a post-pandemic increase in Black-owned businesses, barriers persist for Black entrepreneurs, including access to capital and mentorship.
Ron Busby Sr., President and CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss efforts to help the Black business community thrive in today’s economy.
January 31, 2024
Anderson: Black-owned businesses, like many American small businesses, were impacted dramatically by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the tides have turned, as the number of Black entrepreneurs starting their own businesses surged nearly 40 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Despite the post-pandemic increase in Black-owned businesses, barriers still persist for this community, including lack of access to capital and mentorship. Joining me to discuss efforts to help Black businesses thrive in today's economy is Ron Busby Sr. He is the President and CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers. And, Ron, thank you so much for being here.
Busby: Thank you for having me.
Anderson: So, we just heard about some of the barriers, but I know you come with some of the solutions. What should Black business owners be doing? Where should they be looking when it comes to opportunity to not only start, but to thrive?
Busby: I think any business owner, particularly a Black firm, should be looking at both a private sector as well as a public-sector strategy. And, from the private sector, they should be looking at their local chambers across the country. But from a public sector, they should be looking at the federal government, their state governments, and their local municipalities. In the public sector, on the federal side, there's a program called the 8(a) Program. It's really a set-aside program for minority and Black businesses that is really there to provide some equity for businesses that have been disadvantaged over the years. It's a great program. I was in the program myself, and so I'm an advocate for it. Before being in the program, we were bidding on jobs in the thousands of dollars. Literally, after we got in, we were bidding on jobs in the millions of dollars.
Anderson: And how simple would you say that process is, and what sort of assistance is there out there for businesses who may be looking to go that route?
Busby: It's a very difficult process, and I want people to understand that. But I would say, as a former 8(a) graduate, it should be. It could change your life. And some of the information that they're requiring is going to make you go back and really look at how you're doing business, what your business plan looks like, understanding your financials, understanding your customer sets, as well as the benefits that you could bring to a large government agency. But I would also say that you should do it yourself. There are many companies out there that are charging thousands of dollars for you to fill out the application, and there's some resources that are available. But as a business owner, you should really understand who and what you represent. And so, I would tell business owners to make sure they go through the process themselves.
Anderson: The Black Chamber has put a lot of emphasis on Black media. Tell us a bit about that and how that plays into developing and sustaining Black businesses.
Busby: Yeah, during COVID, 42 percent of Black businesses closed between the months of February and April of 2020. And when we surveyed them, 70 percent said the reason that they went out of business was lack of information. And so, when we looked at how we could address that, one of the partners that we looked at was Black media -- Black radio, Black TV, Black print, and digital. And so, U.S. Black Chamber has created its own media platform now to be able to be that voice of Black business and allow this media platform to be that vehicle for us to be able to transfer that information on to them.
Anderson: I'm wondering about the stigma on the part of some Black owners, when it comes to accessing capital and other investment. How real is that?
Busby: It's very real. If you ask any small business owner what their number-one concern is, they will say access to capital. But when you talk to a Black-owned business, they will say number-one, number-two, and number-three concern is affordability, availability, and accessibility. So it's a real concern. It's everlasting. It's been systemic issues over the years. And what U.S. Black Chamber is doing is providing resources as well as opportunities to address the capital needs that our businesses are facing across the country.
Anderson: This is a conversation that's going to spark questions. People are going to want to know more. What's your website?
Busby: Usblackchambers.org. And you can find some of those conversations that we mentioned, from certification as well as access to capital.
Anderson: Ron Busby with the U.S. Black Chambers. Thank you for being here.
Busby: Thank you for having us.
Anderson: And thanks to you, as well, for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and around the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.