When the COVID-19 pandemic hit U.S. shores, Black women took it as an opportunity to reset their lives and careers to go into business for themselves and take control of their finances.
According to the University of California, Santa Cruz, the number of Black-owned businesses has increased by 30% since the pandemic began and Black women are largely responsible for that growth.
St. Louis NPR reports when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Rhonda Walker, a nursing director at a nursing home in St. Louis, watched her patients die daily and her co-workers fall ill while working numerous hours took its toll. When Walker suffered a stroke in the summer of 2020, she took it as a sign and spent the majority of her recovery planning her next move.
That November, Walker purchased a building in the St. Louis neighborhood of Grove and opened her restaurant Creole With a Splash Of Soul. However, opening a restaurant during a nationwide public health crisis and an economic downturn wasn’t easy. For starters, Walker has trouble getting bank financing.
“I was told that the restaurant industry was pretty much ravaged … especially with the COVID pandemic and all the closings, so it just was not much out there to get,” Walker told NPR St. Louis.
Acquiring capital from lenders, or private investors is still one of the biggest hurdles for Black women to start and run a business.
Walker used about $30,000 in personal savings and about $10,000 in family loans to start her restaurant. While her business has brought in about $270,000 since opening in May 2021, Walker says she still picks up nursing shifts to make sure the doors stay open and her employees are paid.
“Every single dollar that I earned as a nurse, I put back into my business,” Walker said.
Black women across the country have turned their hobbies including cooking, hair design and coloring and even knitting into successful businesses during the pandemic. Additionally, their ability to hustle and come up with new ways to build customer bases helps them even more.
That includes Rachel Burns, who started making ice cream for her friends in 2017 into the Bold Spoons Creamery in Park Hills, MO. After seeing her friend’s positive reactions, Burns began perfecting her recipes. In 2020 when COVID restrictions prevented people from going to a store, Burns went directly to customers, passing out ice cream to neighbors to make them aware of her new company.
“I would just say ‘Hi, my name is Rachel, I live down the street around the corner and I just started this business and I wanted to give you a little treat, I hope you like it,’” Burns said. “And later that day, I started getting online orders.”
Black women have turned the worst pandemic the U.S. has ever seen into an opportunity to change their lives, becoming self-starters and successful entrepreneurs. Now Black female celebrities including tennis star Serena Williams, Beyonce and other prominent Black women are helping their sisters by investing in their businesses and providing seed funding, access to capital and more.