Black Business Owner: The Resistance

Real talk. For the longest time, I resisted being placed in a box by identifying as a “Black Business Owner”. As a lawyer, I feared it would limit my opportunity for growth by making non-black consumers shy away from supporting me. I also feared it would make people call into question the quality of the representation I would provide. When I first decided to go all-in on my current business, I grappled with the idea of being boxed in by the term “Black Business Owner”. Would it send the message that I had nothing to offer non-black women seeking encouragement and empowerment?

For those of you that cringe at my candor, I have mad respect for the fact that we are now rebelling against the negative connotations associated with being a black-owned business. But, my reality and experiences have led to me being on the fence at times about which approach is best from a business perspective. As a black business owner for twenty years, I have had to work aggressively to dismantle presumptions about the quality of service that I could, and would, provide simply because I was black and because I was female. And, to be quite honest with you, I often felt, the majority of the people calling my capabilities and abilities into question were black people. Ouch.

My Reality check:

  1. I could shy away from those words, Black Business Owner, all I wanted to, but I could not scrub the black off of my skin when people came in to consult with me (in my legal practice).
  2. I am a black woman who is a black business owner. Something I am very proud of, so why should I struggle with how it is presented. If my blackness is the reason one chooses not to support me, they simply are not part of my base. 

My Aha moment(s):

  1. In order to not be paralyzed by fear, I needed to focus on the quality of my product, content, and services. Rather than get down in the weeds about my target audience, I decided to embrace the notion, “if you build it, they will come”. 
  2. I am a passionate black woman building a business that focuses on the empowerment of women. Acknowledging and celebrating my blackness does not mean that I have nothing to offer non-black women seeking knowledge and power. 

Since I have had my reality checks and aha moments, I am excited to share with you that August is National Black Business Month. Did you know that? I sure didn’t.

National Black Business Month was founded in August 2004 by Historian John William Templeton and engineer Frederick E. Jordan Sr. in order to “drive the policy agenda affecting the 2.6 million African-American businesses.” The Village Market has created a wonderful BlkAugust campaign in an effort to celebrate National Black Business Month and commemorate Black August. During this month long campaign The Village Market is asking everyone to: spend at least $31 per week on Black-owned business for the month.

I am committed to doing my part in sharing information about Black businesses. In fact, on Friday, I will share a list of Black businesses for your consideration.

Much Love,

Tonza

Author: Tonza D. Ruffin

Perfectly Imperfect but VERY PROUD WOMAN, MOM, LAWYER, and AUTHOR, but most importantly...LIFE LOVER! I laugh loud, I work hard, I play hard, I am adventurous, I am curious, I am driven, I have moments of deep insecurity, I am loving, I am vulnerable, I am explosive (not one of my finer qualities), I dance around my house alone, I am an awful perfectionist which makes my insecurity worse, I sing out loud in my car without any concern for whose watching, I have trust issues, I do not live through my children, I no longer try to force my children into the mold that I created so that I could feel validated as a mother, I am a risk-taker, I am guarded in my personal life, I am kind, I am grateful. I am so excited about the rest of my life!

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