"If We Are Going To Rebuild...Let's Rebuild Smart" - Mark Davis, Las Vegas Raiders
Over the past year, minority-owned, product-based businesses were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, civil & economic unrest. Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that 41% of Black-owned businesses have been shuttered by COVID-19, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses.
As a country, we realize this discrepancy and are focused on helping them rebuild. We acknowledge that these businesses hold a special place in our society by supporting communities often overlooked by mainstream brands & retailers. They are also economic engines that contribute to job creation, tax dollar generation and storefront occupancy.
Although COVID-19 cases are declining, the retail industry is far from going "back to normal"... if that phrase is even a possibility. According to Statista, in 2019, U.S. e-commerce sales accounted for 11% of all retail sales in the United States. This number is expected to grow exponentially to 15% by 2021. Such an intense and unprecedented growth more than likely will not revert to prior rates as our nation heals.
Many minority-owned makers were not prepared for this quick industry shift, and did their best to adjust during these tough times. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, companies owned by minorities are “feeling a bigger impact from the pandemic, report assistance being more vital and have heightened concern about the pandemic’s impact on the local economy, their businesses and mental health.” As economic development and community- based organizations outline plans to support these businesses' rebuilding efforts, 37 Oaks wants to share four e-commerce insights to consider in their strategies and tactics.
1) TEACH THE REALITIES OF E-COMMERCE:
There were definitely minority-owned businesses prepared for this industry shift. They had an existing online presence, marketing acumen, and proven operations, processes and infrastructure. Although these are great attributes, a vast majority were not prepared. They either had no online presence, an extremely limited presence or an inactive site.
In 37 Oaks University courses, we constantly stress how operating a successful e-commerce business is a full and complete business model. If you are focused on growth and scaling, this is not an occasional gig or side hustle to take lightly. In stressing the simplicity of launching an e-commerce business, this often leads to misconceptions & misunderstandings on what it takes to successfully operate one. When administrative and operational tasks come into place, minority business owners often have not been taught, supported or prepared for these realities. This includes considering and understanding certain tasks such as shipping, returns, financial management, inventory management and marketing.
2) APPLY THE LEARNINGS:
Education is an important aspect in helping minority businesses rebuild, but it is just a start. They also need the support and resources to apply what they learn in the classroom directly to their own business. This is where we saw our SOKONI Launch Pad Program create extreme value in 2020.
SOKONI is 37 Oaks' commerce development laboratory designed to help businesses apply learnings from our University with a goal of "getting the kinks out" of their strategies & operations before investing in growth on their own platform. Our SOKONIshop.com site, along with our 1:1 coaching, helped businesses weather this tough season and build e-commerce muscle for use beyond the program. To better understand the impacts and value of this platform, check out the small business & partner testimonials on our website.
3) ASSESS WHATS BEEN DONE:
Significant e-commerce growth was at the expense of physical retail stores. Therefore, many rebuilding conversations have been centered around reviving physical shopping locations. Although this is both critical & necessary, we should not overlook that rebuilding plans should also include strengthening and/or refining existing e-commerce businesses; especially the ones that quickly pivoted during the pandemic.
Many of these small businesses had to quickly adjust to an online business, and therefore it may not have been done effectively or efficiently. Since e-commerce is here to stay, let’s assess the strengths and opportunities of the work that has already been done, so we can make sure these businesses are primed to take advantage of this growth.
4) ADJUST THE NARRATIVE:
With all the attention on e-commerce, and as minority-owned businesses rebuild, they should be encouraged to have both a store front and an online presence. If 2020 showed us anything, it is that the lack of business diversification can expose you to risk when tragedy and disaster occurs. 37 Oaks teaches entrepreneurs about diversification through e-commerce, wholesale, retail, and pop ups. It’s important to stress that although you may start with e-commerce, keeping your eye on other distribution channels is a good business practice as they should compliment & leverage each other.
To help small, minority-owned businesses rebuild after the challenging year business risk. 37 Oaks is here to support economic development and community based organizations with developing & implementing neighborhood revitalization plans. Contact us to learn more.
37 OAKS CONSULTING:
37 Oaks is a Chicago-based company on a mission to strengthen and revitalize neighborhoods through local commerce. Our focus is on educating and preparing small, women and minority owned businesses for growth into storefronts, ecommerce, wholesale and mobile retail.
Contributing Editor: Star Johnson