Above the Water: How Black Businesses Swim in 2018

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 2/2/2018, 8:15 a.m.
Simply being business is hard enough. Compound that with being Black-owned and a disaster like Hurricane Harvey and the definition ...

Simply being business is hard enough. Compound that with being Black-owned and a disaster like Hurricane Harvey and the definition of sinking or swimming takes on an entirely new meaning. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, many entrepreneurs had the difficult teeter-totter task of balancing the rebuild of their home life and business life. As a result, many businesses closed, especially those that were Black-owned. However, there were some that were able to float instead of sink. Courtney Johnson-Rose, current Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce (GHBCC) Board Chair, spoke with Houston Style Magazine to give insight on how those Black-owned businesses that survived stayed above the water in 2018 in celebration of Black History Month.

According to Johnson-Rose, disasters bring more than destruction to any place they hit. They bring big dollars and even bigger opportunities to make one look at how to pull resources. Recognizing that the GHBCC knew there were some key things that they had to do as an organization to help businesses recover from Hurricane Harvey. Their plan had three main goals:

1) Disaster Relief – offering grants and other sources of financial assistance to start the rebuilding process

2) Be a Resource Center – providing information about business development and pulling resources from other Black business owners

3) Get Involved in the Procurement Process – offering information about business opportunities with the City of Houston

It is not too different from what they already were doing; it was just being done on a more escalated scale. Five months post-Harvey and their efforts seem to be working.

Black entrepreneurs’ main challenges with starting and staying in business have always been the same for years. Getting access and gaining capital have slipped through their grasps hindering them from getting needed staff, equipment, and other tools for success. Home equity loans are one of the main sources of capital. But take one look at homeownership rates and it is obvious to see that Blacks have the lowest rates of all. Then there are the barriers to the bank many faced in trying to gain credit loans. Hurricane Harvey made those challenges worst because many business owners had not prepared themselves to handle such a disaster, similar to many homeowners. “Harvey further accelerated that for businesses that were hit because what it does is takes away operating time.” Johnson-Rose continued stating those businesses that were affected could not get SBA loans, the number one tool for business post-hurricane. During times of disaster, a majority of those loans were for families and not many were for businesses. The lack of income and resources for businesses that did not prepare for such time of emergency left them not being able to handle the stressors and many closed their doors for good.

GHBCC saw that need and answered the call that kept some business above the tide by referring members to available grants and the disaster relief page still housed on the Chamber’s website. Other avenues with the Houston Business Development, Inc., List Fund, and Texas Capital Bank were made accessible. Ten entrepreneurs were awarded grants by the GHBCC in the amount of $10,000 to aid in the rebuilding process for affected businesses.