The Gill brothers of Frères Branchiaux are some of the local entrepreneurs featured in Facebook’s #BuyBlackFriday Gift Guide, which encourages supporting Black businesses during the holiday season. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor

Even though the last-minute holiday rush still exists, with COVID-19 restrictions requiring some stores to operate differently or close their doors in order to stop the spread of the infectious disease, many small businesses are feeling the painful symptoms of the pandemic and are working to stay afloat– particularly Black-owned businesses due to the virus’ disproportionate effect on African American communities.  As cities shut down again, COVID cases increase and African Americans suffer with the insidious effects of the pandemic, Facebook and the United States Black Chamber of Commerce are working to empower Black entrepreneurs during the holiday season.

In July, despite the improving summer numbers and optimism some possessed for the future of COVID-19, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce conducted a Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll that showed that 70 percent of small business owners were concerned about prolonged financial hardship due to pandemic restrictions, and about 58 percent were worried about permanently closing.  Five months later, with many places across the United States, including in the nation’s capital, tightening restrictions and shutting down as a means to lower the rising rates of COVID cases, small business owners are finding ways to pivot, partner and provide for the community even with heightened concerns about the financial future and fate of their businesses

Facebook launched the #BuyBlackFriday program as a means of redirecting energy from Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and encouraging others to support Black-owned businesses throughout the entire holiday season.  Through the program, Facebook is featuring their #BuyBlack Friday Gift Guide, which includes products from 60 Black-owned businesses, from home, to beauty, to fashion in the United States.   The Gift Guide can be found on about.fb.come/giftguide/ or in the Facebook app as part of the Lift Black Voices Hub, and is curated in partnership with the U.S. Black Chamber.

“Facebook and the U.S. Black Chambers teamed up to launch the #BuyBlackFriday campaign to harness the energy of the biggest retail day of year and support Black small businesses across the country,” Erica Wood said in a statement submitted to the AFRO.

With the pandemic limiting personal interaction and shopping, Facebook’s new Live Shopping features allows for shoppers to browse store products and make purchases online from the safety and comfort of their homes.  Further, though the pandemic restricted personally meeting and interfacing with small business owners, some of the entrepreneurs from the Gift Guide were featured on Facebook’s #BuyBlack Friday show hosted by Phoebe Robinson of 2 Dope Queens.  

Local Black entrepreneurs, such as the owners of Maryland businesses Frères Branchiaux and Drama Mama Bookshop, talked to Robinson about their ventures and gift ideas for the holiday season.

Drama Mama Bookshop is featured in Facebook’s #BuyBlackFriday Gift Guide, which encourages supporting Black businesses during the holiday season. (Courtesy Photo)

“Facebook is encouraging people to shop at local businesses, like Frères Branchiaux and Drama Mama Bookshop, showcased in the #BuyBlackFriday Gift Guide, throughout the holiday season,” Wood said.

Honored to be part of the #BuyBlackFriday extended holiday programming, Alisa Brock, owner of Drama Mama Bookshop, explained how helpful participating in Facebook’s Gift Guide has been as a local entrepreneur, but further, the positive ramifications such programming can have towards addressing the institutional challenges of racism in the United States.

“Over the last 30 days or so, we have had the honor of being one of 70 businesses in the nation to be featured in the #BuyBlack Holiday Gift Guide by Facebook, in Facebook’s effort to offer support to the Black Community during the holidays. And while we can’t solve systematic racism with just one gift guide it is a start in the right direction. This gave my holiday season hope in the midst of a global pandemic,” Brock, whose custom stationery business is based in Baltimore, said in a statement to the AFRO.  

“While I have spent the past eight months or so being innovative and studying the ins and outs of online marketing in an effort to continue growing my business in an upward motion, Facebook came along and gave me a big nudge and the wide variety of #BuyBlack participants have flocked to my site making purchase after purchase and connecting with my product. It has increased my reach here in Maryland and opened the doors to other communities throughout the US.  It is my hope that amidst my success this holiday season that the messages on my journals have grabbed at the hearts of their new owners and have inspired something fierce in them, whatever it is,” said Bock, who offers custom journals and notepads to bring positivity all year long.

Though they are young, the Gill brothers of Frères Branchiaux are not ignorant to the harmful effects the pandemic has had on small businesses, and said they are thankful to Facebook for their support and helping their venture continue to grow despite the difficulties of the pandemic.

“It was an honor to be selected to be in the official Facebook Buy Black holiday guide,” said the Gill brothers.  “We are a young business–figuratively and literally– a three-year-old company led by three youth entrepreneurs Collin, 15, Ryan, 12 and Austin, 10, Gill, and we have worked hard to create quality products, provide inspiration and encourage philanthropy.  Facebook has been one of our number one supporters and has provided numerous opportunities for us to market our business and grow.  We also use Facebook ads to connect to our audiences and have experienced exponential growth during a pandemic — which is unheard of,” the young entrepreneurs added.

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor