Celebrating Black Business Month and the Importance of Support Networks

In 2014, rather than find a job after moving to a new city, I decided to start a business. It was a big leap. Entrepreneurship seemed out of my reach.

Today I have a Black- and woman-owned PR agency and am part of a growing number of Black women who’ve launched companies.

August is Black Business Month, which recognizes and celebrates Black-owned businesses. Accordingly, it is a perfect moment for considering the challenges and joys of Black women agency owners, especially since Black women are more likely to start businesses.

While meeting and sharing insights with other agency owners is wonderful, their support is even more important. Indeed, their support is among the most critical elements in the success of Black-owned PR businesses.

The Good and Bad

Before discussing entrepreneurship's difficulties, let's touch on a few of its pleasures.

For Wendy J. Roundtree, APR, founder and chief storyteller for Jarel Communications and president of the PRSA Orlando chapter, owning a business provides flexibility.

“Entrepreneurship,” she says, “affords me the opportunity to take control of my priorities and move freely between my different roles.”

Similarly, Karen Swim, APR, founder of Words for Hire and president of Solo PR Pro, a membership community for communicators, says owning an agency lets her “work with people who align with my vision, values and purpose.”

As a result, she has “far greater control over [her] environment and can filter out the toxicity” that remains in so many organizations.

Bias Remains

As noted earlier, entrepreneurship include obstacles too. For example, Black women who own PR businesses are not completely free of existing bias and limited ideas about talent and expertise.

Sometimes, those barriers are in play when companies seek agency partners. They can impinge on the growth of Black-owned PR businesses.

“I have had to navigate stereotypes and microaggressions, and fight harder than my non-Black colleagues for recognition and opportunities,” Swim says.

Moreover, Roundtree says, “Starting and growing a business can be lonely. Add in the lack of Black representation among PR agency owners and it can be an even more intimidating journey.”

This is where a support network of peers and mentors is important. Such a network is a “critical [part of] my success over the years,” Roundtree adds.

It’s similar for many Black business owners, in and outside PR.

The takeaway: build or become part of a network that is ready to support, share insight and amplify your company.

Black Business Month is an excellent time to support and hire Black agencies. Moreover, it’s a time to recognize the networks that support them and their owners.

Bernadette Adams Davis, APR, is founder and chief strategist, Bernadette Davis Communications