by: Sherry Stone TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
As the U.S. prepares to celebrate Labor Day, African Americans can celebrate reaching nearly 3.5 million Black-owned businesses in the United States. Those are the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Non-Employer Business Data by Demographic Characteristics of Owners” statistics from earlier this year.
Small African-American businesses earned a combined total of $83.6 billion dollars and represented 12.7% of all businesses in the nation, according to the report.
In Philadelphia, African-American-owned businesses are praised, small and large, like WURD Radio, Pound Cake Heaven in Kensington, the Minuteman Press, Sid Booker’s Restaurant in Germantown, Atomic City Comics, Black and Nobel Bookstore, and Print Works, which has a line of social justice/heritage-themed hoodies and T-shirts now sold in nearly 400 Target stores.
Later this month, the African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware will honor African-American businesses, non-profits and advocates at its annual meeting and awards ceremony.
This year, the chamber will present its Vanguard Award, the Corporate Advocate of the Year, and the Non-Profit of the Year award.
The awards ceremony will be held Sept. 20 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field. The event gives chamber members a chance to honor peers and business leaders who “represent economic empowerment and advocacy.”
Last year’s Vanguard winner, Steven Scott Bradley, founded the commercial insurance and risk-management company Bradley & Bradley Associates Inc., located at 718 Arch St., in 2001. The company was acquired earlier this year by OneDigital, a Fortune 5000 list insurance brokerage and human resources consulting firm. Bradley’s firm provided services for government, quasi-government, non-profit and health care organizations in the Pennsylvania area.
Before establishing Bradley & Bradley, the honoree was vice president of sales and marketing and president and CEO of Watlington and Cooper Inc., one of the largest minority brokerage firms in the United States, for 15 years. He is also the 2023 winner of the Diversity in Business Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Business and entrepreneurship is the way to overcome property. I always focus on that,” he said. For Philadelphians who want to be in that number of Black business owners, but may lack the tools to achieve, Bradley advises getting a mentor and becoming involved with organizations like the African American Chamber of Commerce.“Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and say I wanna be successful,” he said.
The chamber is headed by Regina A. Hairston, who was named one of the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Women of Distinction for 2022. The chamber, established in 1993, has long been the region’s premier Black business-advocacy organization.
“The economic health and vitality of the Black business community is a requisite for creating and maintaining a thriving economy across the region,” she told The Tribune. “Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the economic engines of cities and help to build communities, create jobs and opportunities, and foster generational wealth.”
Since becoming president and CEO of the chamber, Hairston has established the Coaching to Capital Program, a one-year program that provides select members with hands-on training, mentor-coaches and a financial adviser to prepare them to access the commercial lending market and build strong relationships with local banks.
Hairston also initiated a “Peership Series” to address disparities in the city’s African-American population compared to its share of business ownership.
The group encourages African-American business owners to use the chamber’s “Business Owner’s Toolkit,” which recommends that businesses identify themselves as African American for would-be patrons who are specifically searching for them.
The upcoming ceremony comes on the heels of National Black Business Month, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
National Black Business Month is also wrapping up in Philadelphia, with an “Invest in Philly Campaign” encouraging African Americans to connect with the African American Chamber of Commerce online, to patronize Black businesses, and to share positive reviews.
The Department of Commerce launched its Tech Talks Series in late August for National Black Business Month and gave business professionals in Philadelphia the chance to share resources, network, discuss innovative ideas and mingle. The event was ideal for founders, technologists and start-ups and included advice from industry leaders on how to succeed in the tech ecosystem.
Also, last month the African American Chamber of Commerce participated in National Black Business Month with an expo featuring workshops, vendors and empowerment speakers. The expo was designed to “engage, enlighten and empower chamber members” and connect them to resources that will help them grow and sustain their businesses.
Spurring support of African-American business this fall will be the 39th Annual Minority Enterprise Development Week from Oct. 2 to 6. The event is spearheaded by the city’s Office of Economic Opportunity through the Department of Commerce. The event’s theme this year is “It’s An Entrepreneur Thing: Shattering Barriers and Igniting Success!”
More than two-dozen events and workshops will be sponsored by partner organizations. Med Week 2023 partners include Philadelphia City Council, the Independence Business Alliance, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Community College of Philadelphia, Drexel University, SEPTA, Peirce College, the Urban League of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania and the Women’s Opportunities Resource Center.
“It’s about the power of networking and the power of stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s the power of realizing people, young people are watching us,” Bradley said. “Then we got to focus on our legacy, it can’t be about ourselves.”