“I’ve been reading Black Enterprise for years. For me, when it comes to the principle about giving back to the [black business] community, it made me pause and think, ‘what am I doing to help?’ Financially, how am I supporting those around me?’ It made me seek out black business owners that I could support. It feels good to know my dollars are helping to empower and benefit the community,” says Wade.
Wade was also moved to support black businesses because of the sometimes disrespectful manner in which black shoppers are treated by non-minority store owners. “Sometimes when I shop, and I see the way I’m treated, or the way another customer [of color] is treated; it makes me think that there has to be a minority store owner who can provide the services I’m seeking and do it in the right way,” says Wade.
Wade, who spends between $120 and $250 per month with black businesses, primarily relies on word of mouth when looking for new places to shop. Wade also keeps an eye out for black businesses while traveling or while walking around her neighborhood.
“For me, it was more than just finding a black hair stylist. I wanted to support black businesses who provided other services that I use in my day-to-day life,” says Wade. For example, Wade needed direction for her public relations firm Connect the Dots, so she hired a black business coach. Wade also patronizes black-owned businesses for her banking, car-care, and fitness needs.
Wade took her support beyond the consumer level and makes an effort to support black businesses professionally. She takes notice whenever she comes across a black business owner during networking events or through professional recommendations.
Wade says she wants to do more than just buy black—she wants to help grow black businesses. She uses black vendors for her business needs and provides word-of-mouth referrals.
“It’s not just about me thriving, but working together to create partnerships,” says Wade, who used the power of partnerships to help support a local black-owned educational center. “By supporting black business, you’re creating jobs and opportunities,” says Wade.
E. Faye Clinton, owner of Houston, Texas-based Precious Moments Learning Center, says she is grateful for Wade’s help. “I was struggling to get started and to get my business out there. The business is located in a low-income area. When Vannessa heard that I wanted to start a daycare center, she knew this area had a great need and that the residents could benefit from the daycare’s services,” says Clinton. “Vannessa helped us with grant writing, and helped us get the word out. She volunteered her services.” Wade also arranged to help the daycare obtain math and English tutoring services, as well as donated computers.
After working with Wade, Clinton says more parents started enrolling their children. The center, founded in 2005, opened with just 10 students. Today, there are more than 330 children across three locations in Houston, Texas.
“We were barely at $100 when we first started,” says Clinton, who predicts revenues will be $1 million for 2013.
Wade isn’t shy about her mission to help black businesses. She says she sometimes simply starts a conversation with a minority business owner and asks how she can help. For Wade, the duty to support black business has been ingrained in her since childhood. She says her father encouraged her to give her business to black entrepreneurs whenever possible.
Says Wade, “each year, I provide my services to two or three nonprofits pro bono or for a reduced rate. This year, I selected Laugh 4 A Cure, a comedy show to raise funds and awareness for Sickle Cell. Being that I have the disease, I decided to work with them because I felt no one else would be able to capture the face of Sickle Cell like I would. The result was an increase in donations and record attendance. It showed me the power of working together for a greater cause.”