The 2023 U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC) National Conference converged in Washington, D.C., drawing over 600 enthusiastic entrepreneurs from across the nation. Among them, leaders from Baltimore’s Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce (GBBCC) took the stage. Deborah Keller-Green, Chairperson of GBBCC and President of Keller Professional Services, Inc., along with Kendrick Tilghman, President, and CEO of GBBCC, led impactful sessions. Keller steered a discussion on “Access to Capital,” with speakers from Lendistry, KIVA, and the Small Business Administration to explore financing avenues.
Lendistry, a minority-led small business lender, empowers small businesses and startups with affordable financing options starting at $50,000. They opened an office in Baltimore, Maryland recently. This conference marked a milestone for both the U.S. Black Chamber and Lendistry as a Memorandum of Understanding was inked, aiming to amplify capital access for Black enterprises.
Meanwhile, Kendrick Tilghman, the visionary behind 5 Starr Enterprises, guided the session “Grow with Google: Cybersecurity and Your Small Business.” Tilghman steered discussions toward the paramount importance of cybersecurity for small enterprises, leveraging Google’s expertise.
Ron Busby Sr., U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce President, and CEO, kickstarted the conference with the anticipated “State of Black Business Address.” Anchored by the theme “Designing the Future of Black Businesses,” and amidst the backdrop of the US Supreme Court’s decision to end Affirmative Action, many of the sessions link discussions around the Supreme Court ruling. Amidst these conversations, Busby stressed that the Court’s decision reflected an unfortunate dismissal of Black contributions. He acknowledged the complexity of the journey ahead, advocating for building upon existing successes amid prevailing challenges.
The conference culminated with a visit to the White House. Chamber leaders, including representatives from Baltimore attended the briefing which included members of the Biden-Harris cabinet. President Biden surprised chamber members with an unexpected appearance, expressing gratitude to over 80 leaders for their steadfast partnership. He celebrated historic shifts in the economic landscape, citing unprecedented job creation, record-low Black unemployment rates, and the highest Black labor force participation since 2008. While acknowledging progress, he emphasized the ongoing imperative of ensuring equitable growth and wealth creation for communities of color. President Biden’s shared his expansive economic vision, encapsulated by the term “Bidenomics.” The focus lay on fostering growth from the middle and bottom tiers, reflecting a strong commitment to extending economic access to Black communities.
This sentiment was echoed by the Biden-Harris Administration representatives, who underscored their dedication to sustainable economic growth and inclusive wealth generation. Insights were shared on advancing capital access, bolstering government contracting opportunities for Black entrepreneurs, and continuing the implementation of equity-driven policies.
At its core, the 2023 USBC National Conference conveyed a resounding message: the Future of Black Business is robust and evolving, with an increasing need. Insights from the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.’s 2023-2024 BLACKprint showcased the remarkable resilience of Black business owner’s post-pandemic. By late 2022, Black business ownership rebounded to exceed 30% of pre-pandemic levels. This growth stood as a testament not just to new endeavors, but also to the tenacity of established businesses overcoming adversity.
The conversation shifted from challenges to triumphs, with recent Yelp reports highlighting the agility of Black businesses. Notably, 72% reopened at least once, with 18% reopening twice and 10% resuming operations thrice. Despite these strides, USBC’s research unveiled disparities within the Black business community. The Federal Reserve’s data underscored gaps in securing requested loans, even for well-qualified Black-owned businesses. Notably, Black owners were more likely to face loan denials compared to white counterparts.
Challenges extended to financing applications and interest rates. 57% of Black owners faced capital denial, compared to 40% of white non-employed business owners. The Small Business Administration’s insights revealed higher interest rates for Black business owners despite comparable creditworthiness. These barriers forced nearly 18% of Black business owners to rely on personal credit cards, incurring elevated interest rates.
Equity in federal contracting also remained a challenge, with the BLACKprint highlighting gaps despite major 2021 legislation. This backdrop set the stage for historic Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) signed during the conference. Collaborations with the Minority Business Development Agency, Botoga Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Department of Trade signified unwavering support and global commerce prospects.
Attendees departed with renewed commitment to reshape the future of Black businesses and advocate for comprehensive Reparation Programs. This endeavor spanned education, housing, healthcare, cultural enrichment, and cooperative economics. Reparations were seen as a rightful restoration of economic balance.
In conclusion, the 2023 USBC National Conference united entrepreneurs around challenges and successes, emphasizing partnerships, equity-driven growth, and policy reforms for lasting impact.