Being Your Own Boss

During the time of layoffs and slow job growth, some people are looking to become entrepreneurs and go into business for themselves. But one group lags when it comes to business ownership — the African-American community. Bill Stamps looks into this problem and how things are slowly changing.
"How much debt? What's the interest rates? All those things impact us."

That's business professor Derrick Collins speaking at a recent day-long program for minority entrepreneurs. Houston's Nitra Blair was there hoping to get information on growing her professional organizing business that she just recently started. She says her friends and family didn't exactly cheer when she first told them her plans.

"At first they were a little like, 'oh, OK', but I think it's because they weren't educated and didn't know what a professional organizer does."

Although the number of black owned businesses in the U.S. continues to rise each year, it is still far below that of whites and other minorities, like Asian–Americans. Blair believes it's because some people are afraid to take risks.

"I think it's out of fear and and getting out of that comfort zone. I think a lot of people, and black people as well, just get comfortable in their positions. They want to keep that salary coming in. They want to keep the benefits and things of that nature that a corporation offers and just don't want to take that next step to start their own."

At this seminar, put on by the National Black MBA Association, participants were able to pitch some of their business ideas as well as hear experts speak on topics such as writing a business plan and obtaining financing. Andrew Morrison runs a company that helps entrepreneurs with everything they need to get their business up and running.

"People who have built business because a father, a mother, aunt, or uncle — somebody in their family had built a business and they heard at the dinner table what it takes to build a business. And so we're working with Black MBA's because this is our big table. This is a chance to hear real life experiences from other entrepreneurs."

Morrison says things will change for black entrepreneurs with time and the right training.

"I have a number of Chinese-American friends who suck at business and they have gone bankrupt several times. But they would start one, it would fail and they'd start again, because that's what they know. And so, we need to make sure that our people know the exact same thing."

The experts say one formidable barrier for black entrepreneurs has been credit and the ability to get business loans. But Nitra Blair, the professional organizer, believes you have to think out of the box sometimes, instead of just giving up when a bank says no.

"I've known a few entrepreneurs who've actually hosted parties. And whether it be a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars its still start up."

Blair certainly isn't giving up her dream. She says business is going well and if ever need some one to organize a room in your house...just give her a call.

Bill Stamps. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

National Black MBA Association