In honor of Women’s History Month, the Amsterdam News decided to take a look at Black women business owners impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and their road to recovery.
In New York City, women-owned businesses generate over $71 billion in annual revenue, according to the WE NYC Impact report. There are more women-owned businesses in New York City than “any city in the United States” and that number grew between 2012 and 2019. The lion’s share of these businesses are operated by women out of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, said the report.
Minority/Women-owned businesses (M/WBEs) experienced a jump of 26% from 2007 to 2012, “Significant growth has been much slower than all other businesses and women-owned businesses” for Black women-owned businesses. And during the pandemic, an estimated 25% of M/WBEs shut down between February and March 2020 across the U.S., said the report.
Restaurateur Angela Terry runs the Therapy Wine Bar 2.0 located on Malcolm X Boulevard in Brooklyn. She first opened up in 2009 at a separate location. In 2017, they moved to the Bedstuy location and built a kitchen in order to offer food. While they were under construction in the pandemic, Terry applied for the Social Justice Fund’s EXCELerate Black and Brown business loan program.
“It’s not easy in terms of inflation and staff. It’s been very, very difficult,” said Terry. “We reopened in November 2021 and that loan helped us.”
Through the loan program, Terry and others were able to get back on their feet at a time when inequitable access to the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) capital was rampant. When the PPP program launched, monies were disproportionately distributed to white or male-run business owners.
Former Small Business Services Commissioner and Brooklyn native Gregg Bishop, who now runs the Social Justice Fund, said that after the murder of George Floyd in 2020 by police, the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation decided to take an active approach to addressing racial justice by starting the fund for entrepreneurs of color.
Bishop said that roughly two thirds of the program’s initial $2.5 million in funding have gone to Black women business owners in the city so far.
“Black women tend to be overlooked by the financial market for a number of reasons, including the fact that they tend to have more debt, tend to be more educated so they have more student debt,” said Bishop, “or they have challenges getting capital.”
Bishop said that since a large number of the programs loans are going to Black women that indicates a niche market that isn’t being served. “This is why we do this program,” said Bishop.
The Social Justice Fund loan program sets itself apart by relying on a character witness as opposed to an often discriminatory credit score system and guarantor to assess people’s eligbilty. Terry had a neighborhood pastor write a character-based essay attesting to her work in the business and community to get approved. They also offer additional services to set up business accounts, get technical assistance, or build a budget if needed, said Bishop.
“We want to be able to thrive in this moment and stay afloat, more than stay afloat,” said Terry about what’s next for her business. “Perseverance is key. It’s hard ‘cause it’s cliche, but if you persevere you will definitely see all the benefits at the end.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w