The Buy From A Black Women Inspire Tour
When Nikki answers the phone I have the familiar feeling of excitement and anticipation. It’s been a while since we spoke although I follow her closely on social media, both personally and professionally. All of her best qualities can be heard in her voice—her humor, her passion, her confidence, her ability to engage. As always I am pulled in. It takes me a few minutes to relax—I have a nervous energy that I try to keep at bay with a formality that brings me no comfort. I want her to like me, to be impressed by me because I’m so impressed by her. I ask pre-written questions and write down what she says verbatim. It’s too hard to remain stiff with her easy going style and after a few questions I relax in to the familiar conversation. With Nikki I am often reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s karass from Cat’s Cradle. A karass, in the fictional religion of the book, is a group of people who are cosmically linked even when they lack superficial connections. I suspect Nikki is in my karass. We were meant to intersect and our lives to overlap. The universe decided that for us and I am eternally grateful. As an organizer, I look for those “on the ground” taking the slow, painstaking steps to inch our society forward.
So often people get it into their heads that progress can be seen in the moment—so when it isn’t visible they’re disappointed. But like the Earth’s trip around the sun, some of the most impressive movements are impossible to feel except with perspective. Nikki has spent this last trip around the sun planning the Black Women Inspire Tour. Last summer, on a whim, she toured the country meeting with women in different cities. We were lucky enough to have her at a Verve Think Tank (VTT) in Philadelphia. This year she wanted to be more intentional about the tour. She’s been planning it since she returned from the last one, full of ideas for how to guide Buy From A Black Woman’s growth in ways that women need the most.
Buy From A Black Woman (BFABW) is Nikki’s nonprofit. BFABW supports Black Women who are entrepreneurs or looking to become entrepreneurs. From 2007 to 2008 the number of businesses owned by Black Women increased by 164% while the growth for women across all races was only 58%. During that same time period, revenue for all women-of-color owned businesses dropped while white-women-owned business revenues increased—the disparity was greatest for businesses owned by Black Women despite the growth in the number of businesses. One of the reasons for that is that Black Women have less access to start up money, including loans that would allow them to scale their business up. BFABW seeks to help with that by providing an annual Black Woman Business Grant. The 2018 grant went to The Cake & Company, an Atlanta based bakery. Another barrier for Black Women in starting or scaling up their business is a lack of mentoring. This is true in many fields. Black Women have fewer mentors with shared life experiences because there are fewer Black Women in positions of power in all professional fields. BFABW provides free resources and guidance for Black Women to help them write business plans, do cost/price analysis, set business goals, and develop business content.
For those of us who aren’t Black Women entrepreneurs but recognize the benefits of having more of these businesses succeed, BFABW has a business directory. It allows Black Women to post their business and consumers to search by type of product. While some of these companies have storefronts that you can visit if it’s geographically convenient, most have an online store for easy shopping. My favorite is Ivy’s Tea where I can order Rise and Grind to help me cut down my coffee consumption. She also has one of the cleverest marketing strategies I’ve seen.
Nikki’s Black Women Inspire Tour will cover 11 cities in July 2019.
Atlanta: July 2-3
New Orleans: July 5-7
Charlotte: July 10-11
Philadelphia: July 14 & 16
Newark: July 15
Brooklyn: July 17-18
Detroit: July 20-21
Columbia: July 25
Chicago: July 27-28
Washington, SC: July 30
Baltimore: July 31
When she sent me the tour schedule she acknowledged that this was a bit of a rock star schedule (“crazy as shit”) but knowing her dedication to supporting Black Women and their businesses, I wasn’t surprised. She’ll be holding focus groups in each city to find out from Black Women business owners what they need from BFABW.
Researchers have found that people invest in people they relate to—people with the same gender and race as them. That means that Black Women are disproportionally likely to be turned down by investors because most investors aren’t Black or Women. If white men are investing in white men, and occasionally black men and white women, then Black Women need to be investing in each other. More than that, black men and white women need to be investing in Black Women. Nikki’s Black Women Inspire Tour is an effort to do that—to find out what Black Women are facing, what they need, and how to get it to them. If you are a Black Woman interested in business, or know someone, in one of the cities go to the Black Women Inspire Tour website to learn how to attend one of Nikki’s events. If you’re looking to invest in Black Women businesses you can buy a Community Membership to BFABW, add BFABW as your Amazon Smile donation organization so that while you’re buying from white men you can also be donating, or go to the BFABW Business Directory and shop directly from a Black Woman.
Article by Claire Ryder
VERVE Operative USA & Humanitarian Activist