By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
After the murder of George Floyd, Gregory Holmes realized that when the media covers the Black community, they never discuss Black business. Instead, they report on Black crime, Black deaths and Black education. If the media does focus on Black business, they highlight a single company or entrepreneur.
“Black business is not talked about as a block; it’s talked about as a one-off,” said Holmes, a native of Prince George’s County. “There’s no political power in being a one-off. It’s only political and community power when we’re together.”
After speaking with an individual from the governor’s office in Maryland, Holmes also learned that there is no agenda for Black businesses as a collective that the government can seek to support. Subsequently, Holmes formed Maryland Black Businesses Matter, an organization dedicated to promoting the political empowerment of Black businesses by advancing their economic interests and financial growth.
Maryland Black Businesses Matter seeks to advance a pro-Black business agenda, identify political candidates who support the agenda and leverage its resources to end systemic racism. Before announcing the Maryland Black Economic agenda, the organization will create an environment for Black business growth and success.
Thus far, the organization has worked on creating legislation to improve procurement processes for micro businesses at the state level and has started a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative with two companies under dentsu International, Merkle and Isobar Public Sector.
In partnership with Maryland Black Businesses Matter, the companies have launched a minority-owned business incubator. The Maryland-based firms that participate in the program will be assisted with business development, capacity building, proposal support and marketing efforts.
Maryland Black Businesses Matter also plans to collaborate with The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls to identify Black businesses that are looking to hire returning female citizens.
Currently, Holmes said he thinks there are three obstacles to Black business growth in Maryland. The first deals with the unique location of Maryland and the federal government.
“A lot of Black businesses tend to build their business out with government contracts, and then when that slows or it’s not as productive as they think, they haven’t developed the ability to also win private sector work,” said Holmes.
The next obstacle is reluctance to engage in partnerships. Holmes said many Black businesses prefer to work alone, although working with a like-minded partner may help them excel their business quicker.
Finance was the last obstacle Holmes listed for Black businesses. Access to capital for these entities translates to debt and credit cards because of inequitable banking relationships. He said Black businesses need to invest in banks that will work for them.
His hope is that Maryland Black Businesses Matters conveys the worth of the Black entrepreneur.
“I think the biggest thing I want to get out of this is that we’re valued,” said Holmes. “We’re not just here to check a box to win a contract for somebody else because there’s some kind of minority percentage, but that we’re truly valued.”
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