We see them strolling in their lovely, signature colors. The performances of their undergraduate members “stepping” in perfect unison are electrifying. But underneath the trademark clothing and beyond the bright lights of the step shows, lie a deep and unwavering commitment to serving humanity. For more than a century, these women have had a rich history of championing essential causes, aiding those less fortunate and empowering women. Heading into the final days of holiday shopping, ESSENCE.com asked each president of the respective African American sororities to share why we should support Sister-owned businesses during this festive season.
The spotlight on Black women-owned businesses raises awareness. Whether your platform is large or small, at every opportunity, join individuals and organizations like Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. in endorsing “buying black,” encouraging others to support African American women-owned businesses and inviting the entrepreneurs to your events and conferences. “Holiday bazaars, parties and other festivities provide more opportunities for African American women-owned businesses to showcase their offerings, which can help to raise their profile in the year ahead,” says Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson, International President. “For retailers, the holiday season is the most profitable as shoppers search endlessly for the perfect gift. Supporting products and services from our sister-entrepreneurs during the “season for giving” can make the difference in their bottom line (year-end) earnings while enhancing our overall efforts to close the wealth gap in our community.”
Backing helps to ensure viability of the business and community. For the first time ever, holidays sales are expected to top $1 trillion. Taking our currency from that sum and pouring it into Black women-owned companies will help them stay in business and rebuild our communities. “We are the only race that continues to carry our dollars out of our own communities. Nearly half of all African American businesses are women-owned. If they fail, then we fail and send a message to our children that the “American Dream” does not apply to us,” says Dr. Paulette C. Walker, National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. “We should applaud all women who have the courage to answer the call of that entrepreneurial spirit within themselves. But let’s not applaud them with just our hands. We must applaud them with our dollars because that is the only way their businesses will survive and thrive.”
Support by respected organizations lends credibility. If you are a member of a civic club, church, social set, professional organization or other structured group, join these sororities in making a conscientious effort to work the support of African American women-owned businesses into your platform. This would be a great boost to a new upstart. “Economic freedom has always been an essential component to Black Empowerment. Our advocacy efforts would not be complete without encouraging our members and our communities to support our African American women owned businesses, throughout the year, and especially during the holidays,” says Mary Breaux Wright, International President of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
A buzz is created around innovative products, service and talent. African American women have a creative style that is their own. That ingenuity and originality is channeled into their products and services. “We have to take time to find the businesses and their unique services. We have to take it a step further by helping to spread the word about dynamic black women-owned businesses so they will be around for the next holiday shopping season. Since many women are the heads of their household, when we support African-American women-owned businesses, we are also helping the economy in our communities,” says Bonita M. Herring, International President, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
This is Part 6 of a 7-Part Series on leveraging our enormous buying power and making a commitment to supporting African American Women-Owned Businesses for the Holidays. The Small Business Administration as well as African American women business owners, consumers and experts weigh in on and give their perspective throughout the series.