Too big to fail.
That is the language used to justify our almost trillion-dollar bailout of a banking industry that found itself knee-deep in very unscrupulous business practices, ones that almost led to the complete collapse of the American economy.
Just recently, we watched as the European Union passed a similar bailout package for Greece. The lesson is that governments will always find a way to help those they really want to help.
And then there is us, the African-American community in America, with a collective purchasing power of $900 billion as of 2009. If we were a nation, this would give us the fourteenth- highest gross domestic product among the nearly 200 nations of the world.
As a black business owner and marketing consultant, I am almost shocked at the lack of mention of the African-American market among black business owners.
This I understandable, though, because 95 percent of the marketing and advertising images with which we come into contact on a daily basis are those of other people.
The average black person could not tell you the name of a black-owned business in their community. But if the same person is asked to list non-black-owned businesses, he or she could give you ten, 20 or even more of these within a five-mile radius. Does that sound like equity to you?
I have rarely heard a group of black-owned business owners strategize a plan to win back the black dollar. More often, we are stuck with the notion that black people don’t have any money, so we don’t invest in advertising and marketing to them. We lose out on the opportunity to retain more of the innate wealth created by our community. This is actually the job of the business class.
Now, I am not suggesting that you should not market to others, but I am suggesting that business is largely based on relationships, and if the people in your own community do not find value in your offerings, it is probably going to be even harder for people who have never met or never heard of you to do so.
Most economically successful ethnic groups are able to concentrate internally as a way of expanding externally. This means there is a connection between dollars retained in our community and how wealthy we can be. Truth is, it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep that matters.
The black business community today can give us a bailout of our own, if we are willing to change our preconceptions about our community.
We could be more successful if we are willing to be the best at what we do, to give more, to become more trustworthy, to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and to hold our community and its support of our businesses in the highest esteem.
We could be the catalyst for helping the wealth of the community stabilize, and to leverage that stability to solve some of our most critically underfunded problems. To do that, however, we have to acknowledge the $900 billion dollar elephant in the room.
That is a tall order, but if we remember this African proverb we will be just fine: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Aunkh Aakhu is a freelance marketing consultant.