Are African Americans Wired to Become Business Owners?

  • Are African Americans Wired to Become Business Owners?


    I am not writing this article to offend anyone but I am writing it to educate, inform and empower all current and future business owners especially African Americans. After conducting business seminars and workshops for over 5 years, I have come up with the following conclusions and why I believe that many African Americans are not ‘wired’ to become business owners. If many don’t change their level of thinking, they will have a hard time making their dream of becoming a business owner come true. 

    For some potential business owners this list are just some of the obstacles that they seriously need to address or in many cases overcome -- before opening up the doors of their business.

    1. Want Everything for Free: There is an old saying that “Black People Will Buy What They Want and Beg for What They Need.” In other words they want everything for free! Even when they have legitimate, quality services and products in front of them, they would rather take their money and buy something that will not bring empowerment into their lives. 

    2. Rather Fake it Until You Make It: Most potential African American business owners don’t want to admit that they don’t know everything. They are afraid to brainstorm with others especially those smarter than them such as legal, financial and marketing advisors so they rather "Fake It Until You Make It!" For some this will mean never telling the truth about themselves or their businesses and if they keep faking it --they will eventually become perpetual liars. 

    3. Stop Conducting Research: The more research you conduct on the front end of your business means the better chance you will have at being successful on the back end of your business. However, many business owners stop conducting research once they open up the doors of their business and this is a reason they remain on a small scale. Many just stop believing in their businesses and this is why most businesses go out of business within 2 to 5 years.

    4. Afraid of Business Plans: Most African American business owners including those that have been out there for five, ten years or more -- are afraid of business plans. A business plan is a “roadmap” and without it -- you will get lost in your business. But most African American business owners will never write a business plan! Is it because over 80% of African Americans are doing math at a 4th grade level and they are afraid of the financial section in a business plan --possibly. 

    5. Services and Products Need to Be about Edutainment: Other communities are armed with knowledge because over 95% of the books that they read are non-fiction books and in the black community over 60% of books mostly read are fiction books.

    Non-fiction is information that people buy that will save them time, money, increase their knowledge, or improve their lives. Fiction is entertainment. The writer makes things up. But often fiction can be based on real events. Most blacks are into “edutainment” which is a form of entertainment designed to educate as well as to amuse. So unless your services or products are about “edutainment,” many African Americans will have a hard time understanding your message. 

    6. Rather Get Involved in Network and Multi-Level Marketing Ventures: Most 
    African American business owners rather get involved in Network and Multi-Level Marketing ventures (Noni Juice, Melaleuca, Prepaid Legal, Primerica, YTB Travel, Quixtar, ACN, Ameriplan, Warm Spirits, Ignite Energy, Body Magic Shapers, etc.) which black people are horrible at -- instead of starting and growing ‘legitimate’ businesses. You are not a business owner if you get involved in these types of unethical dealings; instead you are working for someone else. 

    7. Rather Start a Non-Profit than a For-Profit Business: Many African American business owners rather start a “Non-profit” than a “For-profit” business. Instead of conducting their own research, many business owners have listened to someone in the community who told them the government will give them FREE money to start a Non-profit or a Not-for-Profit business. I have seen non-profits who have been out there for 10 to 15 years STILL begging for money from the government. What’s more alarming is that there is a whole new generation of potential young business owners coming behind them that are also begging for money from the government. 

    8. Refuse to Form Business Alliances and Partnership: Most African American business owners don’t understand that the best way to become successful in business is to form business alliances and strategic partnerships. Even when you run into a competitor instead of just offering better services with higher quality products -- you should also think about forming “referral networks.” On the other hand -- it’s extremely hard to find ‘legitimate’ and ‘credible’ black businesses that operate with “integrity” so it’s important to be a part of ‘ethical’ business groups. 

    9. Afraid to Seek Out Business Mentors: Building a business will be one of the most successful things you will ever do in your life -- at the same time it will be hard work! It is true that most African American business owners need business mentors especially youth business owners to guide them along so they don’t make too many mistakes. But it will be extremely hard to find these mentors in black families so they will have to go outside the family to get these mentors. Having a mentor means having the guidance and motivation to become a successful business owner. 

    10.Refuse to Put Up a Website: In this day and age of technology, many business owners fail to take their businesses online. It really takes away the legitimacy from your business when you don’t have a website. A website means that potential customers and clients who live nationally or internationally can view your products and services anytime of the day or night. The other mistake after putting up a website is most black business owners are AFRAID to put their pictures on their websites which makes it impossible to “Buy Black.” Many believe they will not have customers unless others think they are a ‘white-owned’ company. 

    11.Bad Customer Service: African American business owners even those who don’t have storefronts are still horrible when it comes to returning phone calls and emails. They don’t have contact information on their websites which should be on every page. It’s like they are saying “Yes I have a business” but “No Don’t Contact Me.” They have unprofessional business literature especially business cards missing important information. 

    12.No Belief in Youth Entrepreneurs: Most African Americans are too protective of their children and feel that if their kids become business owners they will not be safe. Sure parents will need to be ‘hands-on’ -- but nowadays with one or both parents out of work, these youths (Kidpreneurs and Teenpreneurs) can become breadwinners for their entire families. Unlike their parents -- they haven’t had time to experience pain and because they live in a world of technology they are multi-talented which means they can easily set up their own business or help with family businesses which are the best way to generate ‘true’ generational wealth.

    13.Believe Their Life is Over at Age 40 or 50: Most African Americans think their life is over with at the age of 40 or 50. At 40 years of age you have over 60% of your ‘productive’ life left ahead of you. At 50 you have 40% of your productive life left ahead of you but many are afraid to ‘reinvent’ themselves by going back to school or starting their own businesses. With this‘weakened economy and unfair workplace policies -- what other choices do they have? 

    14.Too Unhealthy to Start a Business: With an epidemic of sickness plaguing the African American community at this time, many believe it’s impossible for them to become business owners. What they need to realize is that most holistic and natural healers, health coaches and consultants and many other health professionals got started in health careers because they were successful in healing their ownselves. So even if you are not healthy at this time, it doesn’t mean you can’t turn your life around and become healthy and start your own business.

    15.In that Waiting Mode: Many potential business owners are listening to family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues who are not business owners and choosing to sit back in a “waiting mode” -- to see if things will get better. In a weakened economy, there are tons of opportunities out there but these opportunities will not just knock on your door. You have to get out there and create these opportunities. You can start by reading my business book to see if you have what it takes to become a business owner “How To Take Control of Your Own Life: A Self-Help Guide to Starting Your Own Business” (Series 2) at

    If you fit in any of the above categories, use this as a teaching moment to really look at your level of thinking when it comes to business ownership. Only you can decide whether you are wired to become a business owner. 

    Cathy Harris is an Empowerment and Motivational Speaker, the author of 20 non-fiction books and is known as the Ethical Black Business Coach She is available for lectures, seminars, and workshops at Angels Press, P.O. Box 5288, Atlanta, GA 31107, Phone: (770) 873-2072, Website:, Email:

    Copyright 2013 Cathy Harris. All Rights Reserved

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    Cathy is the author of 20 non-fiction books at ( 
    Her books covers topics on family and community empowerment, health, youth and adult entrepreneurship, writing/publishing, workplace discrimination (sexism, sexual harassment, sex and race discrimination), whistleblowing, law enforcement, domestic and international traveling, politics, media, beauty, car buying and selling for women, aging/retirement – just to name a few. Her books and articles are full of content-rich material to help anyone get back into the driver’s seat. Follow Cathy on tour 

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