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Black-Owned Businesses on Weather Economic Downturn

Shantella Y. Sherman | 12/29/2008, 11:34 a.m.

Berhanu said businesses of color tend to be more successful, despite their limited access to resources, because they find a niche and cultivate it rather than attempting to do what others do. Relief should be coming with the change of political leaders and more confidence in the dollar, according to Berhanu.

€The hope with most business owners is that with a new president in office and some relief coming from lowered gas prices, that the euphoria and psychological effect of optimism would cause people to splurge, or at least to consider shopping a little,€ Berhanu said.

Berhanu, who recently added the bookstore to the caf, said it is imperative that Black business owners think outside of the box and be willing to take risks, even during calmer economic trends, to ensure success.

€We€re trying to build an alternative economic system. We are trying to keep our money circulating within our communities,€ Berhanu said. €For instance, we choose to use a Black distribution company and we continue to promote films by African, Latin American, and Brazilian filmmakers that are great stories and which provide the audience with lessons in life.€

This becomes part of the challenge when national and online retailers like Amazon.com are factored into the overall business strategy of African American business owners. Still, with an eye on competitive pricing and firsthand knowledge of what their consumers desire, Black businesses adapt easily and maintain the type of fluidity that keeps them in business when others close.

€Our job is to educate the minds and so we continue to have people come to us, rather than go to other places. It€s comfortable here and that is good for business,€ Berhanu said.

A recent report by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor found that despite the economy, African Americans continue to outpace members of other racial and ethnic groups at starting new businesses.