August is National Black Business Month and in the midst of a global health pandemic and ongoing racial disparities, we need to financially empower Black-owned businesses, now more than ever. There are around 2.5 million Black-owned businesses, according to the Census Bureau. Although the vast majority are sole proprietorships or small businesses, an increasing number have regional reach and national ambitions. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a nonprofit group that tracks U.S. economic cycles, found that 26% of Black-owned business owners closed between February and May, compared with 11% for their white counterparts.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, “The disparate racial impact of the virus is deeply rooted in historic and ongoing social and economic injustices. Persistent racial disparities in health status, access to health care, wealth, employment, wages, housing, income and poverty all contribute to greater susceptibility to the virus—both economically and physically.” A reopening of many states and a modest economic recovery in May benefited some business owners, but the racial gap still persists.
At Salesforce, we established the Racial Equality and Justice Taskforce to take action to further racial equality in our company, industry, and society. One of our pillars is around purchasing — closing the racial wealth gap by using our platform and purchasing power. As Chief Procurement Officer, I’m proud to share we are committed to spending $100 million with Black-owned businesses over the next three years. Salesforce Ventures, our venture arm, has also committed to invest $100 million in companies led by Black and underrepresented founders. These are just early steps on the path to progress, and we all play a part in supporting and advancing racial equality.
Empowering Black and Minority-Owned Businesses
We know that widening access to opportunities is critical to financial empowerment and that’s why we’ve partnered with several Black-owned businesses during August and will continue to do so as part of our Supplier Diversity program and beyond. Here are some of the partnerships we are honored to announce:
World Wide Technology (WWT): We are pleased to partner with WWT, a market-leading technology solution provider and one of the largest Black-owned businesses in America, in our Value Added Reseller (VAR) category to provide critical inventory management functions in support of our hardware, software and data center provisioning.
National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC): Salesforce has also partnered NMSDC which works to advance business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members. With this partnership, Salesforce will increase investment in NMSDC and grant licenses to 150 minority-owned businesses through a partnership with each of the six regional offices.
We are also working to create a sponsorship/mentorship program for 50 Black-owned businesses by FY23 which will connect their executive team and founders to Salesforce executive sponsors.
Phenomenally Black Owned: Salesforce is partnering with Phenomenal to elevate and amplify Black-owned businesses. Inspired by the signs displayed proudly in the windows of local Black-owned businesses, this special edition shirt is part of Phenomenal’s mission to raise awareness around issues affecting underrepresented communities. Learn more here.
Salesforce Essentials: In response to the adverse health, economic and racial crises that have disproportionately impacted the Black community, Salesforce is committed to empowering Black-owned businesses — both financially and with technology solutions.
In today’s environment, small businesses are competing to not only maintain relationships with existing customers but to also successfully adapt to the new normal. At Salesforce, we prepare small businesses for whatever comes next. And in the process, we help small businesses build stronger connections with their customers. To support Black-owned small businesses, we are doubling-down on our commitment to foster economic empowerment and build wealth within the Black community.
In her new role as Senior Director of Strategic Business Development for Small Business, Shalaya Shipman, works across the company to build ecosystems that promote the continued growth of Black-owned small businesses. “We are intentional in our objective to close the racial wealth gap and forge a more equitable path forward,” Shipman said. “Black-owned small businesses provided with innovative solutions and resources will drive new channels of generational wealth.”
Stories of Resilience: A Conversation with Serena Williams – Stories of Resilience is an ongoing virtual event series where small business leaders share true stories of how they’ve navigated challenging times. Last week Molly Q. Ford, VP of Global Equality Programs at Salesforce interviewed star athlete, tennis legend, business owner, fashion designer, investor, and philanthropist – Serena Williams. They discussed some of the challenges facing Black-owned small businesses today, and shared real and actionable advice. Serena also answered live audience questions. Click here to watch a recording of this event.
#FacesofSmallBiz – In our ongoing campaign to highlight the stories and experiences of small business owners and entrepreneurs, we’ve been spotlighting Black-owned small businesses, like Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream and Black Girl Ventures, on our small business social channels. Explore the #FacesofSmallBiz hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to read the latest stories.
Investing in Black & Underrepresented Minority Founders
Beyond our commitment to small businesses, Salesforce Ventures has committed to invest $100 million in companies led by Black and underrepresented minority founders. Our goal is to build a more diverse ecosystem and collectively increase the overall number of Black and underrepresented minority founders in the Salesforce Ventures portfolio by more than 3 times by the end of 2023.
Black Entrepreneur Cohort: In partnership with the AppExchange and the Salesforce Accelerate Build program, we are excited to announce our first Black Entrepreneur Cohort. Together with our subject matter experts and ecosystem of partners and customers, the Cohort will support Black technology entrepreneurs from idea to app, fast-tracking their journey to market at every moment that matters.
Empowering and supporting Black-owned and other minority-owned businesses is not only the right thing to do, but it creates much needed access and opportunities for our most underrepresented communities. Learn more about how we are taking action for racial equality here at Salesforce.
Top Image Photo Source: Photo features Gwendolyn “G” Houston-Jack, a portrait artist and the founder and owner of G photography. It is an Arlington, TX-based portrait studio focused on creating and celebrating the beauty of an individual and families through editorial and fashion inspired images.