Over the past year, University of Virginia graduate Destinee Wright has been hard at work finalizing the Charlottesville Black Business Directory. When Destinee began her passion project in 2018, she recognized a need to connect Black business owners to the local community.
“It started as a Facebook post,” Destinee shared. “Where are the Black businesses? I know a bunch from being in the community, but I don’t see them listed anywhere.”
Destinee created a social media post where she collected information about local Black-owned businesses. The post garnered a great deal of engagement, and Destinee knew she had to make use of the collected data, so she shared the information on her blog. She consolidated the businesses she already knew and the business information she received from Facebook to create a listing. The directory started from a simple social media inquiry and grew into a resource utilized by both Charlottesville locals and city officials alike.
“The hardest part was verifying business information,” Destinee said. “I spent a lot of time initially trying to add these businesses and trying to find people’s logos. And I realized too that in looking for these businesses, either their Facebook was outdated or they didn’t have a website, or the phone number was wrong. There were a lot of challenges trying to find the right information.”
Through trial and error, and countless hours of research, Destinee designed the Charlottesville Black Business Directory website. Although she faced difficulty in finding consistent help, she credits the local community for assisting her with the project. From Facebook, groups like Sista Circle Cville, to her mentor, Steven Johnson from UVA’s Equity Center, Destinee relied on members of the community to validate the accuracy of the database.
Racial Wealth Gap
Black buying power has increased significantly in the last decade, growing from $961 billion in 2010 to nearly $1.2 trillion in 2018. According to Nielsen, Black consumers represent more than half of overall spending in some markets.
Unfortunately, the United States has been historically unkind to Black-owned businesses. The country’s history of predatory lending practices and decimation of minority owned businesses connect to the larger issue of the wealth distribution gap.
In the 2019 Annual Business Survey conducted by the Census Bureau, only 18% of all United States businesses were minority owned. That does not include the approximate 2.6 million Black-owned businesses forced shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nationwide, Black-owned businesses average $58,000 in annual sales, compared to nearly $600,000 on average for a white-owned business, data show. The Black unemployment rate has been consistently twice that of the white unemployment rate for nearly four decades, with 19% of all African Americans living below the poverty line.
Though today’s wealth inequality can be linked to the Jim Crow era, supporting Black-owned businesses can move the needle. Small business owners build wealth for their families and strengthen local economies. Forty-eight percent of purchases made from small businesses circulates through the local community, compared to 14% of purchases made from chain stores, data show.
“It impacts equity, it’s helping jobs, it’s helping feed families,” Destinee explained. “When you’re supporting these small businesses, you’re putting money directly into someone’s pocket versus a big box store.”
Business owner Treatrous Jackson echoes Destinee’s sentiments, saying “There are people who want to patronize Black businesses and have their Black dollars circulate through Black communities but they don’t get that opportunity. People from other nationalities don’t get a chance to have a place to go to find those businesses so that they can contribute to diversity.”
Treatrous, locally known as “Treat,” met Destinee at Charlottesville’s Black Business Expo. Treat owns a small business called The Tax Ladies with her business partner, Libby Edwards-Allbaugh. Their tax company has thrived in Charlottesville for the last 10 years and is featured in the Charlottesville Black Business Directory.
The Tax Ladies worked throughout the past year to assist companies through the pandemic by helping businesses locate resources and apply for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
As a member of the Chamber Minority Business Alliance, Treat believes the directory is much needed. “A directory highlighting Black owned businesses is important because a lot of people are not aware that there are so many professional businesses that operate in Charlottesville,” she said.
Small businesses oftentimes do not have the capital or resources to promote their business in the same way a nationally recognized brand does. Additionally, consumer traffic relies heavily on a business’ location. Highly attractive locations come with higher price tags.
“Visiting the Downtown Mall, you’re not going to find a lot of Black businesses there. The truth is, it’s very expensive to have a brick-and-mortar location. Also, there’s some systemic issues that affect how Black people are able to secure some of these brick and mortar locations,” Destinee explained.
As a business owner, Destinee understands the importance of visibility for entrepreneurs. “A lot of attention is not on these amazing businesses and it’s a shame because they absolutely deserve that recognition.”
Destinee’s first business was a mobile hair styling company that grew quickly by word of mouth. Some of the entries in the directory are also Destinee’s former clients.
Destinee recalls, “That’s how I first started to get plugged into Charlottesville, meeting all of these amazing Black women and meeting other entrepreneurs in the area.”
Outside of the directory, Destinee is known for her volunteerism and outreach. Last summer, Northshea, a local skin care company, had their warehouse vandalized and more than 2,000 pounds of product was stolen. Destinee assisted in setting up a GoFundMe to offset the massive financial loss that Northshea experienced.
She’s also the owner of Destinee Marketing, a social media marketing company that helps content creators, small businesses, nonprofits and grassroots organizations promote their brands on digital media outlets.
Destinee credits her father and uncle for her entrepreneurial spirit. “My dad was a small business owner and I had an uncle who was a small-business owner. I think that may be where I got the idea that you can make things work on your own.”
Currently, the directory has more than 200 businesses listed and has received over three thousand site views. Destinee hopes to add more businesses in the coming months as well as provide resources for future small business owners.
Visitors can find the directory online at https://cvilleblackbiz.com/.