ORLANDO, Fla. – A collaborative group made up of local Black business owners is working to connect Black businesses with consumers to help keep them in business during the pandemic.
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz and a report by The National Bureau of Economic Research found 440,000 Black businesses shut down last year from February to April. The report found 41 percent of Black-owned businesses closed, compared to 17 percent of white-owned businesses.
But Chef Chelsy Pederson-Buck went against the grain, opening Smothered, a take-out and delivery restaurant, in December 2020.
“I just figured I would create something that would deliver well,” Pederson-Buck said. She had a catering business on the side before the pandemic hit and saw an opportunity to pivot as the food delivery and take-out market exploded and her catering jobs dried up.
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“I designed a comfort food menu and figured I could send comfort food for people to enjoy in the comfort of their home.” People can now use UberEats and other online food delivery services to order made-to-order food from her restaurant.
As a new restaurant, Pederson-Buck must rely on word-of-mouth to build a customer base. A collaborative group of Black business owners, Black Business Orlando, is helping to connect consumers with local Black businesses like Smothered.
“The pandemic has made it visible that as a black business we’re struggling… and we don’t have the resources we need to sustain,” said Mishara Bianca, who handles media relations for Black Business Orlando.
Since the pandemic, she said the collaborative group is promoting Black-owned businesses on social media so people know what is available in the community.
“Being able to connect the consumers with that, allows them to be able to know who they can support. With everything going on in the world people really want to support Black businesses,” Bianca said.
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She said the group is also working on a directory of businesses to distribute to the community.
Historically, Bianca said minorities have been at a disadvantage to starting businesses because of a lack of education on how to do it and cash flow.
“A lot of us did not grow up with families that started businesses… so we don’t know what that looks like,” Bianca said.
“In order to be able to start a business, one of the things that you want to be able to do is be financially set to have one, a lot of us are not educated financially and it takes loans. If you already have issues within the banking industry to get loans… you struggle as a black business to be able to secure a loan to be able to start your business.”
Bianca said one of the biggest things the community can do to help minority businesses is to support them. To follow the Black Business Orlando Facebook page for information on local Black businesses, click here.
For more information on the restaurant Smothered, click here.