Black Businesses Receive Tech Industry Push Ahead Of Holiday Shopping Bonanza

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt Black-owned businesses a tough hand. Stifled by stay-at-home orders, on-again off-again store closures and stricter limits occupancy limits, many businesses are struggling to outlast the seemingly unending virus outbreak.

Although they’ve rebounded slightly in recent months, Black-owned stores have experienced the greatest decline this year, plummeting from 1.1 million businesses in February to 640,000 in April—a 41% drop.

But spurred by a national movement to support Black businesses, which kicked off this summer, a new number of corporations are taking small steps to put the Black in Black Friday.

Black Friday online sales pulled in a record $7.4 billion in 2019— the second largest online shopping day ever and a 19.6% increase over the previous year—while the holiday season overall generated more than $72 billion in online sales, according to Adobe Analytics. Online sales for this Black Friday are projected to generate $10.3 billion.

The surge in digital spending over the holiday season and the heightened visibility that’s been awarded to small businesses through corporate sponsorships could have a considerable impact on Black businesses in particular, sustaining them through the a few more months of the pandemic.

Facebook, for one, launched its #BuyBlackFriday initiative and a corresponding toolkit and gift guide in October as part of a broader three-month campaign to buttress small businesses during the holiday season.

The gift guide features products from Black-owned businesses and was curated alongside the U.S. Black Chambers and several corporate partners. 

“Black-owned businesses have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, closing at twice the rate of other small businesses,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a blog post announcing the initiative. She added, “But we know that millions of people want to help.”

The campaign runs through Black Friday on November 27, a symbolic starting gun for the holiday shopping season.

More recently, Google partnered with Grammy-winning musician Wyclef Jean and the U.S. Black Chambers to promote its #BlackOwnedFriday campaign, an effort to make November 27 “Black-owned Friday” and galvanize shoppers to buy Black beyond the Thanksgiving weekend.

The tech giant has also showcased Black-owed businesses on its social platforms since mid-October and now allows users to find nearby stores that identify as Black-owned through its search engine.

“I’ve seen firsthand the strain and struggle that Black-owned businesses face,” Jean said in a statement. “For many of them, this holiday season will be critical to their survival.”

TikTok, the latest viral social media platform, threw its weight behind Black-owned businesses months after facing censorship allegations from Black creatives in June. Earlier this month, the video sharing platform, which has about 200 million monthly active users in the U.S., launched Support Black Businesses, a digital hub to amplify Black entrepreneurs. 

TikTok also announced #ShopBlack, an in-app campaign that allows users to create videos spotlighting their favorite Black-owned businesses or to share their experience as a Black entrepreneur.

As small businesses reel from the pandemic’s economic disruption, many big retailers have had breakaway growth. Amazon’s profits and sales exceeded analysts’ expectations, reporting a 37% sales growth and tripling its third-quarter profits as more shoppers turn to the e-commerce giant during the pandemic. 

But celebrities and influencers alike have started to leverage Amazon’s omnipresence to highlight Black sellers on the platform. Nearly 70% of the products on Oprah Winfrey’s highly anticipated annual list of her favorite things are created by Black-owned or Black-led businesses this year and all are available for purchase on Amazon.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

The billionaire media mogul has partnered with Amazon on the list since 2015 and her yearly picks have provided brands with considerable gains in sales since the list’s 1996 advent.

Black Americans have developed a growing presence among small businesses owners and could stand to gain considerable sales from dedicated shopping holidays like Small Business Saturday, which raked in an estimated $19.6 billion in 2019. And while physical distancing measures will significantly curb foot traffic this year, more than 112 million Americans visited a small business on that day last year, a record high.

As shoppers increasingly reject winding lines that snake around the store, a trend that’s long been in the making but was exacerbated by the pandemic, they’re also looking to support independent local businesses—a potential boon for niche Black businesses with an online presence this holiday season. Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

Ruth Umoh

 Ruth Umoh

I’m a reporter covering the various aspects of diversity and inclusion in business and society at large. Previously, I was a reporter at CNBC, where I focused on leadership and strategic management. I’ve also dabbled in video journalism, working as a breaking news digital producer for New York Daily News, followed by a yearlong stint as a producer at Rolling Stone. My work has been featured on New York Daily News, Yahoo Finance and Time Out. I’m a proud alumna of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, receiving honors for my investigative thesis on the alarming number of physicians dying by suicide. Tweet me @ruthumohnews or send tips to rumoh@forbes.com.

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MarketWatch

Black business ownership fell more than any demographic group since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We spoke to some across the nation who are still fighting to survive. See this video on MarketWatch: https://www.marketwatch.com/video/sec… MarketWatch provides the latest stock market, financial and business news. Get stock market quotes, personal finance advice, company news and more: https://www.marketwatch.com/ Follow MarketWatch on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marketwatch Follow MarketWatch on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarketWatch Follow MarketWatch on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/marketwatch/ Follow MarketWatch on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mark…

How to Make Smart Bets in Business

Business is full of bets, especially where investing is concerned. If you’re interested in rolling the dice by purchasing a business, making an angel investment in a startup or even allocating your hard-earned money for your first employee, it’s important to know what makes a smart bet and how to protect yourself from a worst-case scenario. It’s worth stating that even deciding to go into a business of your own is a form of a bet, and merits the same type of background due-diligence.

This may require testing or gaining new knowledge, but a thorough understanding is critical, especially with glaring statistics regarding the failure rate for startups at a whopping 50 percent, according to Small Biz Genius. With statistics like these, there’s no way to ensure success. However,  there are definitely ways to think through potential pitfalls in business models and feel more secure regarding where you invest your money and your time.

Related: Make Your Money Grow: How to get wealthy by Smart Investment

Verify demand through popularity

When it comes down to it, a sure bet in business is dependent upon how much customers want what it is that you’re selling. If you can do some market research and verify demand, you’re in good shape. Demand can come from the product’s value — such as its ability to solve a problem — or even from the person who’s selling the product, like a major celebrity who has established trust with millions of followers online. 

This is one of the reasons why big influencers and celebrities can land lucrative book deals. Publishers know that whatever they release will fly off the shelves. The demand from their fanbase is verifiable. Take comedian Amy Schumer, who landed a rumored $8-10 million book deal for 2016’s The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.

Verify demand through testing

If a celebrity or big-time influencer isn’t included in the equation and you’re just trying to figure out how a product will sell, try a “market as if it were real” test approach. According to Ron Rule from the Entrepreneur’s Handbook, this is because “the only way to truly know if someone is going to fork over their hard-earned cash to buy your product is to get it in front of them.” Otherwise, market research is all mere guesswork. It gets you more clarity than you would otherwise have, but it doesn’t mean much until a target customer’s wallet is involved. 

Rather than going through the hassle and added investment of actually building out the product and then seeing if there’s a demand, Rule recommends creating a prototype of the product in Photoshop, setting up an ecommerce website and then leaving your payment processing in test mode so that it doesn’t actually charge a potential customer’s credit card for a fictional item. 

Then, begin to direct ads to the page to see if customers actually buy. “Personally I would spend around $10,000 on a proper marketing test, but you can start with a lot less if you aren’t comfortable going that high right away,” Rule elaborates in his book. “I do recommend spending at least $1,000 because you want to get enough clicks and conversions for the data to mean something — trust me, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to lose $1,000 on a marketing test than it is to lose tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars producing a product nobody wants.” 

Sometimes, the best bets require a smaller upfront investment first for a big payout on the back end.

Engulf yourself into the industry

The more you know about what you’re investing in, the more educated your bets can be, which usually pays off on the back end. This piece of advice comes from sports gambler Zach Hirsch. At 18 years old, Hirsch is regarded as one of the top-performing sports analysts in sports gambling, with a 90 percent accuracy rate in his predictions (which is over 20 percent higher than the industry average). 

Hirsch’s best advice on making sound bets is to “engulf yourself in the industry.” For Hirsch, he takes this piece of advice within the type of sport he’s betting on, but the advice carries for business investments, as well. “Learn everything there is to know, engage with the experts, and do whatever it takes to further your understanding of the craft,” Hirsch recommends. This advice can be extended to getting to know the founder of the startup you’re investing in or just ensuring you know as much as you can about your new industry, so you can see clearly how a product or service will perform. Do your backup research, then research some more. Keep having important conversations.

Related: How to Invest Your Hard-Earned Money in the Right Project

Even with verified demand and a thorough understanding of your industry, there’s no guarantee that your investment is 100 percent safe, but you’ll at least have the perspective to see potential bumps in the road or glaring stop signs in your betting decisions. These insights may make all the difference.

By: Aimee Tariq / Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Smarter Faster™ Big Think is the leading source of expert-driven, actionable, educational content — with thousands of videos, featuring experts ranging from Bill Clinton to Bill Nye, we help you get smarter, faster. S​ubscribe to learn from top minds like these daily. Get actionable lessons from the world’s greatest thinkers & doers. Our experts are either disrupting or leading their respective fields. ​We aim to help you explore the big ideas and core skills that define knowledge in the 21st century, so you can apply them to the questions and challenges in your own life. Other Frequent contributors include Michio Kaku & Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Michio Kaku Playlist: https://bigth.ink/kaku Bill Nye Playlist: https://bigth.ink/BillNye Neil DeGrasse Tyson Playlist: https://bigth.ink/deGrasseTyson Read more at Bigthink.com for a multitude of articles just as informative and satisfying as our videos. New articles posted daily on a range of intellectual topics. Join Big Think Edge, to gain access to a world-class learning platform focused on building the soft skills essential to 21st century success. It features insight from many of the most celebrated and intelligent individuals in the world today. Topics on the platform are focused on: emotional intelligence, digital fluency, health and wellness, critical thinking, creativity, communication, career development, lifelong learning, management, problem solving & self-motivation. BIG THINK EDGE: https://bigth.ink/Edge If you’re interested in licensing this or any other Big Think clip for commercial or private use, contact our licensing partner, Executive Interviews: https://bigth.ink/licensing ———————————————————————————- Follow Big Think here: 📰BigThink.com: https://bigth.ink 🧔Facebook: https://bigth.ink/facebook 🐦Twitter: https://bigth.ink/twitter 📸Instagram: https://bigth.ink/Instragram 📹YouTube: https://bigth.ink/youtube ✉ E-mail: info@bigthink.com

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How the Average Person Can Actually Start An Online Business

A 2018 study from Bankrate revealed that only 39% of Americans could have enough savings for a $1,000 emergency fund and 44% couldn’t cover a $400 out-of-pocket emergency expense. 

Starting a business can be a difficult task regardless of your financial status, but the degree of difficulty climbs much higher the lower you are on the economic class scale.

Related: The Complete, 12-Step Guide to Starting a Business

If you happen to be an average person, with an average bank account, a normal job, a family to feed and bills eating up a large percentage of your earnings, then the deck is stacked against you. 

Why?

It takes money to make money. Online sales are all about eyeballs. How many people can get you to see and interact with your offers?

I tell my eBook students — “youcan write the best book in the history of the universe, but if no one ever sees it, you’ll never get a sale. On the other hand, you can publish the worst book ever published and with the right marketing techniques and finances to back it, you’ll get some initial sales, at least until you get a few bad reviews.”

If you start your own website, open a Shopify store, sell on Amazon, social media or any other online marketplace, you will be paying for those eyeballsthrough either advertising or fees. Sometimes both. The only potential exception would be those with a large and active social media following.

Long story short — if you are the average person without a legitimate budget, you’re kind of screwed. 

Learn from my mistakes 

Sometimes we all need a reality check. I wish someone would have sat me down and told me this when I was 23 years old because I wasted tens of thousands of dollars on failed online business over the years and it was money that I didn’t have. 

I’ve been the average guy with the average income, the average job and above-average bills. There was a point in my life that my monthly earnings were negative $1,000. I had to get a $20,000 personal loan to plus up my income to pay my bills for a year. 

Honestly, I don’t know what the bank was thinking by giving me that loan, but I’m glad they did because I had seriously considered filing for bankruptcy and if I’m being honest, I probably should have. 

This was one of the worst and most stressful time-periods of my life and if this article can save one person the heartache I went through, it’ll be worth it. 

Move over success 

A few years later, I was supporting US Special Forces as a military contractor in Syria. While I was sleeping in a tent, eating food out of a can and stealing WIFI from a neighboring country, I started an online jobs website for aviation professionals with security clearances interested in deploying to combat zones. 

Related: Need a Business Idea? Here Are 55.

The website itself did become profitable, but it was only a few hundred dollars of profit per month. While it wasn’t a massive win, there wasn’t much like it within the industry. 

The site’s uniqueness along with the targeted audience I was able to build via Facebook advertising piqued the interest of the right people which lead to a single dinner and ended with me consulting with a multimillion-dollar corporation. 

Since then, it’s been all downhill. Sometimes all we need is a single breakthrough. 

If I can do it from a tent in Syria, you can do it from your couch. It didn’t happen overnight though. Here is the process I had to go through to get to that point. 

Overcoming average people obstacles

The mistakes I made that put me in the worst financial position of my life are the same mistakes that many others make on a daily basis. 

If you are in a position where you don’t have expendable income but want to start an online business, read the following advice carefully…

Be realistic

  1. Realize that until you fix your own financial problems, starting a legitimate business will be out of the question. This was a tough realization for me, but I’ve learned that you can have the best business concept in the history of the universe, but if you can’t fund it and do it right, it’ll never succeed.  
  2. Sell everything you can possibly sell. Especially liabilities that have monthly payments. If it wasn’t nailed down, I sold it. I lost money on most everything, but it was worth it in the long run. 
  3. Consolidate debt and cancel all unnecessary subscriptions. This allowed me to lower my monthly obligations, decrease interest rates on certain debts and pay bigger chunks towards the debt. 

Focus on the money

  1. Search for a higher paying job. Often, we underestimate ourselves and what we are capable of accomplishing. Put yourself out there and see what’s available. What’s the worst a potential employer can say, no? This is actually how I ended up in Syria. I was able to more than double my salary by accepting a position that most people wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. I even grew to love the job, but initially, I was simply making a personal sacrifice to achieve a long-term goal. As an entrepreneur, if you are not willing to make sacrifices, you are in the wrong line of work. 
  2. Use a skill, learn a skill or try something new. Stop worrying about starting a business and focus on actually earning money. I was able to earn an additional $1,500 a month by writing content for people’s blogs, creating social media content and writing small informational eBooks. Here is a solid hint. If you want to make money, be willing to do the grunt work. Do the things that people don’t like to do themselves. 

It wasn’t glamorous, but it accelerated my debt pay off. I was able to get most of my business by joining niche forums and Facebook groups. Here is a solid hint – niche forums and Facebook groups are two of the only places on the internet that you can get those eyeballs for free, but you have to be offering something they are actively seeking. 

I actually hadn’t ever done any of the services that I started offering, but with a little practice and learning from people on YouTube, I was able to surpass customers’ expectations.

Related: 5 Steps on How to Start a Business and Get It to Market Quickly

Starting a business and scaling

Once you are out of debt or close to it and have at least $2,000 to invest, it’s time to start your online business. 

Here’s the process I like to follow:

  1. Don’t think major corporations. Rather, start small and build. Use the new skills you learned to earn extra money during your debt payoff phase and start something you know can be profitable. We all have our dream business, but at this point, it’s more important to start something low risk and stable. Learn to be passionate about the process and business in general rather than a specific idea or concept. 
  2. Once you have a steady flow of business, figure out how to outsource using freelancers. Implement processes to take yourself out of the equation to the point that you are simply managing the businesses and dealing with customers. This will allow you to continue earning from the business, but it’ll free you up to work towards your next business. 
  3. Take the earnings from the first business and invest them into your next business concept. Ideally, you will only be investing the profits from business number one into business number two. This will allow you to continue to build your personal savings from your day job while still allowing you to invest in online businesses. 
  4. Rinse and repeat. 

Don’t rush the process. Enjoy the journey. 

Personally, I like to have three to five businesses running at any given time. Two or three of them will be low-end grunt work type businesses that fund my ideal businesses.

The grunt work businesses are profitable because everyone hates to do their own grunt work. It’s the reason people pay to have their houses cleaned and their lawns mowed. 

You can easily and successfully scale without having to invest money earned from your full-time job. This allows you to continue to save and grow financially while you are building something real.

Takeaways

Starting a business can be difficult and is a process that shouldn’t be rushed. 

In reality, it’s a fairly simple process if you are patient. 

  1. Fix yourself
  2. Focus on the money
  3. Start with something low risk
  4. Outsource
  5. Invest earnings into other business concepts
  6. Repeat

In my opinion, this is the one process that gives the average person the best chance of being able to start a successful online business. 

By: Austin Lawson – Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor / The Combat Entrepreneur

Why a Strong Mindset is the Foundation of a Successful Entrepreneurial Career

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It’s often the case that when one wants to start a business, they think it should begin with an idea and a . But while these are necessary ingredients in , they overlook the most necessary ingredient of all: their own mindset. There’s a quote from author and entrepreneur Idowu Koyenikan that says, “The mind has a powerful way of attracting things that are in harmony with it  — good or bad.” And it’s true. If you hit one obstacle in building your business and believe it’s a sign that you should give up now, you likely will. But if your mindset is focused on perseverance and success, you’ll keep at it.

Now, many words come to mind in association with an entrepreneurial mindset: optimistic, determined, persistent, unwavering. But what about the mindset required to just get started? Entrepreneurship has a way of taking over our lives, colluding with our identities and forcing us to confront everything within us. That’s why a strong mindset is the most powerful building block for any successful company.

Do you believe everything happens for a reason?

Some of the very began because the founder went through a setback, then realized something better was ahead. When Vera Wang was rejected for the editor in chief role at , she decided to create her own bridal design line. When Oprah was fired as a news anchor, she was put on a talk show, which sparked the rest of her wildly successful career.

Believing that even the setbacks serve a purpose is a valuable mindset tool. If you’re going into entrepreneurship to win right off the bat, it’s likely you’ll have a hard time rebounding after your first obstacle. Also note that in the above stories of resilience, the founders made the conscious choice to take control of their own story. Vera Wang wasn’t in control of the fact she didn’t land the editor in chief job, nor was Oprah in control of being fired and placed on a talk show. It’s what they did next that mattered most.

Practice this very important resilience mindset hack by going through all of the past memories and events of your own life story. Are you able to see how one setback propelled a new opportunity? The sooner you make peace with the fact that obstacles are inevitable but bouncing back is always required, you’ll have the resiliency mindset to conquer a successful entrepreneurial career. A flipside to this mindset would be feeling like “everything is rigged against you” or what you were attempting “wasn’t meant to be.” You get to choose what’s meant to be after each obstacle.

Do you believe that you have limitations?

Do you have limited beliefs or fears that keep you playing safe, or are you coping with something else that’s holding you back? While building your foundational mindset, it’s a good time to assess what could be hurting you. Balazs W. Kardos, founder of the Diamond Life Blueprint, recently shared with me that he considers the first act of greatness he ever completed to be “pulling himself out of the darkness of “.

As he told me, “It took a great deal of inner work, but I now believe I needed to prove resilience and endure my bout with depression to get to where I am today. I know I can win against anything, which was a powerful shift in mindset for me.”

It’s a personal undertaking to assess one’s own limitations, but since the journey of entrepreneurship often entails coming up against these limitations, it’s best to assess them before you begin a company. See if there’s a coach or counselor you can work with to help you bust through the limitations, or even a mastermind group that can hold you accountable to your real visions of the future.

Do you have thick skin?

Rejections are just another obstacle that you’ll inevitably run into, whether it be your 36th “no” from a potential investor, an “I’m not interested” from a potential retailer or even a failed process of designing a prototype. We often hear the story of how tried more than 10,000 times to create the lightbulb, but rather than giving up after so many failed attempts, his mindset turned 10,000 “failures” into “10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Another story exemplifying the same persistence is the story of Sir , the founder of Dyson vacuum cleaners. He tried in excess of 5,000 prototypes before perfecting his company’s core design — and Dyson is still a frontrunning company today.

Begin to think of “no” as just a word. Better yet, shoot for thousands of nos in the spirit of Edison and Dyson. If you go into business thinking it will be a long string of yeses or bust, you’re in for a tough haul. Ultimately, your mindset is the only thing you can always control in entrepreneurship. Even the best-laid business plans will come up against moments that test your resolve and determination. Build a resilient mindset first, and you’ll be successful no matter what.

Jennifer Spencer

 

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Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com

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