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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

‘Make or break time’: Black business owners counting on Small Business Saturday

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Sandy Crain decided to take a leap of faith about a month ago. She had been saving money from her job at a factory in Greenfield and got to the point where she felt comfortable enough to quit and dedicate her time to Neonapi, her online boutique store. 

Neonapi had been more like a hobby for years, but Crain is now in the same position as so many other Black small business owners: She’s trying to get people to spend money during a pandemic that has led to mass job loss and economic uncertainty. 

Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28 could be the boost many need. 

One of the biggest letdowns for Black small business owners has been the cancellation of in-person vendor events. Many small businesses don’t have a physical location and rely on online sales, but owners also depend on vendor events to have more of the traditional interaction with potential customers. 

Andrea Jenkins, owner of Harmonious Insights, said she would normally be at anywhere from six to eight vendor events around the holidays, but that’s not possible right now. 

Jenkins started Harmonious Insights in 2018 and said there would probably be more interest in her self-care business — where people can by sage, incense sticks and yoni eggs — because of all the stress 2020 has caused, but she hasn’t had enough opportunities to introduce her products to customers. 

Jenkins said vendor events are also important because it’s an opportunity for her to talk to people about their specific self-care needs. As a licensed social worker and therapist, she knows how to figure out what might be causing stress and can then make a suggestion. 

“I don’t have that opportunity to individualize,” Jenkins said. 

For some small Black-owned businesses, Small Business Saturday could be “make or break time,” she said, as owners contemplate the viability of their business. 

Katina Washington, who started the S.H.E. Event eight years ago to help Black business owners promote their products, said Small Business Saturday will be especially important now that health departments have started implementing more restrictions amid rising COVID-19 case numbers and positivity rates. 

Washington recently launched the S.H.E. Marketplace online, where buyers can sift through products from vendors. There isn’t a firm plan yet, but Washington said she would look at ways to promote the businesses on the marketplace for Small Business Saturday. 

While some small business owners have another job that they consider to be their main source of income — or at least supplement the income from their business — Washington said she’s heard from other owners who are starting to wonder if they should give up and move on. 

A successful Small Business Saturday could save some businesses. 

“It could definitely be a revitalizing thing and keep a lot of people in business,” Washington said. 

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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