April is black business month, and consequently is a great time to reflect on the success and challenges faced by African American entrepreneurs.
And while some statisticsincarceration, education etc.in the African American community are tremendously disheartening, a look at the numbers of black businesses offers an important ray of hope.
According to the most recent statistics published by the United States Census Bureau, there are 1.2 million black-owned businesses in the country up 45 percent between 1997 and 2002. That is just behind the 1.6 million Hispanic businesses and just ahead of the 1.1 million Asian firms.
The majority of these firms are small companies with about 10,727 of them pulling in receipts of $1 million or more and about 973 employing 100 or more people.
Nearly four in 10 of these companies operated in the services sectors including healthcare, social assistance, personal service, and repair and maintenance.
California, as always, continues to be a major home for black firms accounting for 112,873 of these businesses and trailing only New York (129,324.) Los Angeles county has the second largest concentration of African-American businesses (52,674) following slightly behind Cook County in Illinois with its 54,758 businesses.
Sales and receipts for black-owned businesses in the state increased by 59 percent, to $10.2 billion in 2002 well ahead of other minoritiesup 12 percent to $57.8 billion for Hispanic-owned firms, while businesses owned by Asians had increases of 8 percent to $130.3 billion. Receipts for women-owned firms grew from $121.2 billion in 1997 to $140.9 billion in 2002, a 16 percent increase.
California and Los Angeles County are definitely places where black-owned firms can start, grow and make a mark on the community, and Our Weekly newspaper is a case in point. Founded in 2004, the weekly publication reaches more than 150,000 readers. Although new to the market, company owners Natalie Cole and David Miller have put the newspaper squarely in the community eye and among their activities is hosting several major political forums and spearheading a meeting of some of the regions most diligent community activists.
Weve taken a page from the newspapers of the past and strongly advocate for the needs of the African American community, explained Cole, CEO and co-owner. That is why we brought the grassroots community activists together to talk, and thats why we hosted several political forums including one for the Second Supervisorial District race.
As I said when we first launched Our Weekly, there was a need that was not being met in this community, and we have successfully filled that need, Cole said.
And we dont intend to stop there, added co-owner and company vice president and general manager David Miller. Whatever issues are out there that need in-depth evaluation and consideration, well be looking at them. But beyond that, were looking to set the pace because our goal is to be the leader and not a follower, added Miller.
Cole developed her newspaper expertise during a 20-year-plus career at the Los Angeles Times and L.A. Weekly. Miller formerly held senior management positions at the Wave Newspapers and the Los Angeles Daily News. The combined experience of these partners was a perfect match for Our Weekly.
In less than one year, Cole and Miller were able to gain Verified appoval for the 50,000 weekly circulation. Since 2005, Our Weekly has been Los Angeles largest audited black newspaper.
Circulation volume is the foundation of our advertising rate structure. Therefore, we did not hesitate to initiate and execute the audit process, because the value of being an audited paper is critical to our advertisers, said Miller. They know that they are reaching the most readers per dollar spent based on actual circulation.
What truly separates Our Weekly from our competitors is our feature articles and the fact that nearly all of the articles are written by staff and contributing writers. There is not a heavy reliance on wire services or wire copy, which equates to someone else telling our stories, said Cole.
These efforts have not gone unnoticed, because Our Weekly newspaper was recently named media company of the year for 2008 by the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC). The honor was presented at the groups 15th annual Economic Awards dinner, an event which each year recognizes individuals, corporations and public officials who have demonstrated their commitment to African American businesses and also those who provide invaluable scholarship support for black students in the inner city.
This year nearly 60 companies, agencies and individuals were nominated for their efforts to support black-owned firms.
In the Media of the Year category, Our Weekly competed against the Los Angeles Times for the honor.
GLAAACC was established in 1991 by a group of business owners and executives led by Gene Hale, president of G&C Equipment Corp. and Homer Broome, president, Marvid Associates. The vision was to create an organization that would serve as an advocate for African American-owned business enterprises and to promote their growth and expansion into the international arena.
The GLAAAC recognition of Our Weekly follows on the heels of awards to the newspaper from several other major organizations within the city.
The Black Business Association of Los Angeles honored Our Weekly as the Black Business of the Year. This award is given to the BBA member business that exhibits exceptional business growth while being responsive to community service needs.
Since 1970, the nonprofit BBA has contributed to and supported the development, progress and expansion of more than 10,000 African American business enterprises. Nationally, the BBA has access to and influence with more than 75,000 African American owned and women/minority-owned business (WMBEs), through the formation of strategic alliances with trade associations and organizations throughout the US. The BBA’s mission is also to advocate for and advance the development and growth of African-American owned businesses.
The Community Financial Resources Corporation (CFRC) awarded Our Weekly its Outstanding Community Advocate Award earlier in March during its 15th annual Power Luncheon. The recognition was one of four the business and home ownership assistance organization gave out. The others were the Robert A. McNealy Trailblazer Award, the Outstanding Community Reinvestment Partner award and the Outstanding Small Business Achievement award.
The Los Angeles Community Reinvestment Committee d/b/a Community Financial Resource Center (CFRC) is a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) dedicated to providing low-cost financial services and counseling for residents and businesses in low and moderate income communities of Los Angeles County. The mission of CFRC is to create and enhance the economic wealth and capacity of residents and businesses in disinvested areas of Los Angeles by delivering quality community development programs, and facilitating collaborative efforts among business, the community and government.

And finally, Our Weekly publisher Natalie Cole was given a Rising Star Award by the National Association of Women Business Owners-Los Angeles at its 22nd annual Leadership and Legacy awards luncheon held at the beginning of March.
The honor salutes a woman entrepreneur who has established a critical milestone in her business and has displayed high potential for entrepreneurial success.
NAWBO is the only dues-based national organization representing the interest of all women entrepreneurs across industries. It was founded in 1975 and has chapters in almost every metropolitan area in the nation, and is represented in 33 countries.
The Los Angeles chapter began in 1979 and has as its mission to propel women entrepreneurs into economic, social and political spheres of power by strengthening the wealth creating capacity of members and promoting economic development within the entrepreneurial community. The organization also focuses on helping women build strategic alliances, coalitions and affiliations and advocates transforming public policy and influencing opinion makers.