to give back to their neighborhoods.
However, many of these same black youth said they were not confident enough to pursue a dream of entrepreneurship because there was not enough available information or familiar role models. That said, what message are we sending the next generation of business owners if we are averse to “buying black”? We must show our youth that they can truly excel in business.
When you aren’t buying from black-owned companies, it is important that you flex your consumer muscle by buying from companies or stores that have a history of supporting the African American community. You should buy from companies that respect us as consumers by advertising with black media and featuring African Americans in ads using their products or services.
Become an advocate in your own company. Obviously, the first place to begin is to find out about your company’s diversity policies and programs, if it has any. You might consider proposing a diversity council comprised of minority suppliers and community leaders. Try to get on the diversity team.
Within your company, try to identify contracting opportunities for African American-owned firms and make recommendations. What is your company’s procurement policies, especially as they relate to using (and increasing) the number of minority vendors?
Your company’s hiring and spending practices should be in line with or reflective of the demographics of the customers it serves. Also, your employer should have outlets or offices in black neighborhoods. One way to check on whether your company is socially responsible is to contact your local branch of the NAACP to see if it has been graded. Under the NAACP’s Economic Reciprocity Initiative, companies are rated in various categories.
Your company will make the grade if it makes dollar as well as in-kind contributions of services and products to your community. Also, does your company recruit on the campuses of HBCUs? Of course, this may require you to step out of your comfort zone and press human resources on these issues.
Invest in black-owned companies and mutual funds. A more direct means of contributing to such companies is through investment. For one, you can buy shares in a company like Radio One Inc., one of the 12 publicly held black businesses listed on the black enterprise black stock index (see “Encore! Encore!” Moneywise, May 2000). Second, diversify your mutual fund portfolio by using one of the 14 companies listed on the black enterprise mutual fund list (see “Fantastic Voyage,” Moneywise, April 2000) to seek out funds that invest in minority companies.
“There is that emotional element of pride in putting money into a black-managed mutual fund or a publicly traded company that is black owned,” says Alvin D. Hall, author of Getting Started in Stocks (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95). “It can be very satisfying knowing that you are participating in the growth of the culture.” At the same time, says Hall, you have to approach these companies as you would any other investment, which means fully dissecting the company’s corporate performance over time.
The bottom line