TYLER, Texas — COVID-19 has taken a toll on businesses across the country, and that struggle has had an even greater significance for Black-owned businesses.
A report released in mid-2020 by the National Bureau of Economic Research found 41% of Black-owned businesses nationwide have closed due to the pandemic.
Clover Bolden with the Tyler Metro Chamber of Commerce says business owners are coming together to help their fellow East Texans.
"What I have seen is businesses drawn together," olden said. "And I've also seen people reaching out to purposely include diverse business."
A key part of success during the pandemic is knowing what's available. There are federal programs available to help, like HUBZone, which works to fuel small business growth in historically underutilized business zones. "If you are a 51% owner of a business and you are female, or minority or disabled veteran, then you qualify for HUBZone certification...and so that's a really huge, potentially very huge revenue stream for small businesses," Bolden said.
The federal HUBZone program has a goal of awarding at least three percent of federal contract dollars. Texas also has HUB program spending goals, but there's still work to be done to level the playing field. "On the state of Texas' website, they have about 25 billion in reported expenditures, only about 2.94 billion of that was spent with a hub. So that means there's a great disparity with less than 10% going into women and minority owned business," Bolden added.
if you're a Black business owner, or you're looking to start a business - the chamber has tools to make the process less daunting.
"There are so many people think they can just google everything, and you want to pay a stranger for something. And it may not necessarily be the right fit for you," Bolden said. "And we can also help you get the professional training that you need and help you look for new customers in interesting ways and also how to retain those customers as you begin to grow."
The chamber holds regular meetup events that support Black-owned businesses, and are open to everyone. It's a way for business owners to connect, and a way for the community to come together and recognize the diversity that makes our area great, as our region works to get back to business.