Have you every been to an establishment and you are greeted with a sour face, been ignored, or with “what you want” attitude? Have you try to recieve a service and you are told that they cannot offer the service? Have you ever have to put up with over pricing for poor product or terrible service? You may have gone to a stereotypical Black business!
I always feel embarrassment, disappointment or resentment for such poor representation of Black businesses. How are these kind of businesses expect hard working African (Black) folks to work hard, get treated like shit from their white co-workers just to get paid, to come and spend it in their establishments without any kind decent services or products. Black business owners are always quick to cuss out their African patrons and say they are being betrayed by their own? I was one of those activists that would say “Black businesses matter” and “Black money + Black businesses= Black power”. However, over the years I have become disillusioned and avoid poor Black businesses.
To be honest, I hate having to use non-Black business to give my hard earned money that will not be used to uplift my community. I despise financially empowering another race that only looks down on us but want us to be their loyal customers. Black businesses need a reform because of their poor customer relations, services, over pricing and under-performing products. I obviously talking in general and recognise that there are some Black owed businesses that are the exception. Nonetheless, the stereotype still holds true and that makes me angry!
We need to raise our Black businesses to the same high expectations like any other business and should shape the landscape for African economics. Here are my 5 suggestions that every African person should act upon to increase their reputation, customer relations, and profits:
- Invest in excellent quality of marketing – How many times have you walked by a new Caribbean or African takeaway/restaurant in a familiar part of town but nobody goes in, no one is sure what kind of cuisines they offer, or know it even existed until months later when it is about to close? Any smart business person knows that there is no point having a great service or even an industry revolutionary product if no one knows about it. Some businesses do not have a clear identity when you walk in and it is off putting. I think this demonstrates that they do not know their market. Know your market and then sell to that market. Simply saying your market is “Black” is not good enough. Is your niche geared towards professionals, families and mothers, luxury car drivers, youth, or etc? Once you know your market, do a focus group (if appropriate) to test out products, pricings, business location, app and website. Now get a budget in place and hire a firm that will meet the needs of the business and your market. Now sell, sell, sell.
- Know your competition/ Unique selling point (USP) – I know it is common sense but not commonly practiced. If there are 3 other nail salons on a high street, what makes your business special or attractive, apart from being Black owned? To answer that question, you will need to go and investigate the 3 nail salons and see what is working and what is not working. If there are gaps then fill those gaps! For example, the sophisticated designs that clients often want after seeing artistic deigns on Instagram or Tumblr are declined because the nail technicians have limited design techniques. You can cover that gap in the market by offering a premium service called “Pimp my nails: You design it, we’ll do it”. You will have women and girls willing to wait longer and pay more to get the look they always wanted for their nails. Another one could be, if you find the 3 nail salons have certain quiet days, take advantage to do special deals on those days e.g. Mondays and Tuesdays student specials or Mum and daughter Monday packages.
- Know your customers’ pockets– There is no point offering a service or selling a product to your market that is low to mid end on the salary scale but charging high end prices. Especially, when other businesses are undercutting the prices you are offering. I know business 101 is to make money and lots of it but if you are in the wrong location, have too much competition, or do not know the spending habits for your market, you will earn a poor reputation rather than money. Any business starting off needs to keep their overheads low and products or services affordable to optimize on the income margin. Only when you are established and have met your financial targets, you can afford to improve the quality and pricing. If you are a luxury brand then make sure your products and services meet the expectations so you have repeated business from customers that have a high disposable income.
- Have plenty and be prepared to always say ‘yes’– No one wants to enter your establishment and hear you can’t provide a service or product you are are advertising. It will eventually ruin you. After a while, you should know what people want and have a supply of. There should never be an embarrassing moment when an employee turns around to a customer and say “we do not have that”. Your credibility as a business is instantly undermined. If you cannot keep up with the demands, then down size your products or services you offer. It is that simple.
- Know your manners– Manners cost you nothing but rudeness costs you customers and money. I do not play when it comes to my customers and my money. If you have employees with a bad attitude, train them or fire them. If an unhappy customer complains or wants a refund, you have to be polite (and not just to the white customers). It is part of business. What we think is acceptable as customer relations needs to change. It is the responsibility of the businesses to incise and keep customers, especially the Black patrons and not the other way around.
These are the basics that needs to be done correctly before you see Africans flood into Black businesses that looks like them and throw money at the cash registers. It is a symbiotic relationship between the business owners and the community. Yes, Black business matters but Black customers’ money matter more!