Being black in business.

You are tired of grinding poverty. So tired of counting pennies and exhausted and numb from the hard work and challenges you have to face daily.

You have decided to become an entrepreneur or self-employed and you’re excited, though nervous because the world around you seems dogged by failure.

Countless times you’ve walked past the woman with the tired eyes faithfully selling her fruit and vegetables. She has aged in front of your eyes yet she sits with a ready smile to make that extra five rands so her children can have a roof over their heads, food on the table and maybe if there is enough complete some tertiary education.

One day you see construction near where you live. You’re curious and discover that a Mall will be built and the anchor tenant is a large retail supermarket along with a fruit and vegetable store. It now becomes convenient to shop at the supermarket and you include your fruit and vegetables so you can save a few cents and swipe your card only once.

Have you never wondered why after 25 years of “freedom,” there aren’t more black and brown people building that Mall?

It’s quite simple really and the answer lies in the colour or rather the value of your skin. Systemic racism did not crumble simply because the “whites only” signs were removed.

Have you tried going to a bank and getting a business loan?

Have you tried opening up a business or several in the suburbs of the country?

What collateral/surety did the bank ask you for?

At which shops are you spending the money that you have earned?

The problems you seem to face by wanting to enter into a business seems insurmountable yet you have to try because you want a better life for yourself and your family.

What to do:

First: Throw out those how to get rich books because you are making those white people richer by buying their books. Buy the books if you like the
author but not if you need to understand how they became wealthy.

Second: Understand that as a black and brown person, a different set of rules apply to you. You have to jump through hoops before you are taken seriously.

Third: Realize that the word “tenderpreneurs” has only been used to describe black and brown people doing business with Government. White people doing business with Government are known as business people (as it should be). I am in no way condoning corruption. I’m condemning the notion that corruption has a blackface.

Fourth: When you know the rules of the game you are able to play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. One of your weaknesses is expecting some white people that are primarily in charge of decision making to view you as an honest, upright citizen. You know you are and that should be your starting point.

Fifth: The system is constructed for black and brown people to work in business, not to own it. Though not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, there are enough around that have the drive and determination to be that.

Six: Upskill yourself. The black and brown person you may sell your product to is also a paying customer and therefore deserves your best quality and the same business-like manner that you would use to solicit business from white people.

Seven: If there is a black and brown person running a business, do not negotiate a cheaper price. The rule of thumb is simple, if you don’t negotiate with Woolworths, what makes you think it’s ok to negotiate with the business in the township?
Let us afford our own people the same respect we offer others.

Last but not least, don’t give up because a few doors have slammed shut. The system wasn’t designed for you to be successful at the onset. There is no wealthy parent or properties you can sell to ease your burden. Don’t focus on that. Focus on the fact that after your success things would be easier for the next black and brown person. This is ultimately why you wanted to work for yourself, isn’t it?

Believe in yourself and your product because if you don’t who will? The fairytale of the stranger coming along with a bag of money is just that, a fairytale. Find free workshops you can attend. Networking is important and a key to your success and imparts what you have learned so you can spread the wealth and uplift each other.

Barriers to entry can be broken down if you pursue and persevere.