ABBE town hall empowers Black businesswomen

Jess Deyo

Black businesswomen throughout Ohio gathered Dec. 17 to share a preview of the Ohio RISE survey results and invite industry leaders to present exciting business opportunities.

The town hall, hosted on Zoom, was presented by the Alliance of Black Businesswomen and Entrepreneurs Ohio (ABBE OH) and moderated by members Gloria Ware, founder and managing member of Get The Bag, and Keena Smith, founder and chairwoman of the Women’s Center for Economic Opportunity.

The meeting started with Beyoncé’s “Who Runs the World,” paired with uplifting mantras from Smith, who also serves as chief economic equity and inclusion officer for Franklin County. As participants joined, they were encouraged to share the city they were tuning in from, with representation among the few dozen attendees from all major cities in Ohio.

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The Rise survey, an acronym for resilient, impactful, self-made and empowered, was launched by ABBE by and for Black businesswomen earlier this year as a way to identify the struggles associated with maintaining a business following COVID-19.

ABBE, also founded earlier this year, hopes the survey will reach 1,000 Black businesswomen, at which point they will release the survey results to public policymakers, allies and more. At this point, Smith and Ware share the survey has reached 256 participants.

Of the businesswomen surveyed so far, 60 percent disclosed they make less than $50,000 a year, while only 7 percent make over $500,000. On a positivity scale, surveyors averaged a 3.5 out of 5. While the state of Black businesswomen is positive, it is vulnerable, Smith says. 

In the next stages of Smith and Ware’s presentation, they identified and presented three priorities for Black businesswomen: reimagine business models, attain capital, and manage operational risks. 

A panel of partners from a wide range of professions took time to share how they plan to help Black businesswomen reach these priorities. Some shared the news of funding efforts and financial opportunities, while others gave industry advice. All, however, expressed the desire to lend a helping hand.

Of nearly a dozen speakers, Erica Penick, deputy director for the Cleveland President’s Council, offered insight on market opportunities and challenged popular ways of thinking.

“We’ve all heard the saying that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” Penick says, “but I say even more, it’s who knows you. It’s critical to build strong relationships that position our businesses to be recommended and be top of mind when opportunities occur.” 

Some speakers also shared financial opportunities that exist to help stabilize Black and minority-owned businesses.

Belinda Stenson, director for the Minority Business Partnership for the Dayton Chamber of Commerce, shared the banker’s roundtable, a project developed in 2019 that allows women and minority-owned businesses to pitch their brand to over a dozen financial institutions ready to provide resources.

Go here to learn more about the efforts of ABBE and take the survey.

Keena Smith, founder and chairwoman of the Women's Center for Economic Opportunity