Black business owners try to rebound from the pandemic during National Black Business Month

"Only 2.5% of the businesses (in Philadelphia) are Black-owned," Regina A. Hairston said.

Friday, August 20, 2021
Black businesses try to rebound during National Black Business Month
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Business owner Marlene Lane has been hard at work on her sewing machine at Marle' Originals Boutique in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

MOUNT LAUREL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Business owner Marlene Lane has been hard at work on her sewing machine at Marle' Originals Boutique in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

She's been backed up with orders for custom clothing ever since pandemic restrictions started to ease up.

"I was like, 'What in the world is going on?' But then I realized it was because the world opened up again," Lane said.

As the pandemic brought foot traffic to a halt inside her boutique, Lane took it upon herself to create pieces that would stock up her inventory.

The pandemic was the rainy day she'd been told to save up for.

"I learned that some businesses don't even turn a profit in the first year," she said. "So I was prepared."

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Unfortunately, a lot of other businesses weren't. Many of them were businesses owned by people of color.

"Black businesses were disproportionately affected by the pandemic," said Regina A. Hairston, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce, which serves Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. "They closed at twice the rate as their peer businesses."

The chamber is bringing attention to the issue during August, which is National Black Business Month.

"Oftentimes, our Black business owners are sort of doing this by themselves," said Hairston. "And that's why, here at the chamber, we open-source all of the resources that help businesses make these decisions."

Hairston says more Black business owners need to realize they're not alone and seek out the help of a mentor and classes that can educate them on how to grow and maintain their business.

She says Philadelphia has a particularly noticeable shortage of Black businesses.

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"Only 2.5% of the businesses (in Philadelphia) are Black-owned when you have a 44% Black population," she said. "So when you only have 2.5% businesses compared to your population, one business closing is too many businesses closing."

The African American Chamber discussed those stats as members met with various mayors to create more diversity in business.

"We are taking that information to say here's what we can do," said Hairston.

Lane is now back to being busy with custom orders. While she creates for the runway, she hopes other Black entrepreneurs can find a way to create successful businesses.

"It's just a great feeling," she said.