"I'm rooting for everybody Black." Issa Rae
A few months ago, for a solid five minutes, I considered closing the business. Our sales were down, I missed a piece of mail from the city and our expenses rose. I was making tiny mistakes that resulted in heavy costs to both my self-esteem and my pockets. I was not sleeping, my hair was falling out and I was not present to family. In other words, I was barely holding on.
Then came the tipping point; there is always one. A family member walked pass the cafe as they have done on many occasions without buying a single thing or asking about the health of the business.
I sat in disbelief as I reckoned with the reality of what it means for folx to not support Black owned businesses. In a split second, my mind listed all the opportunities lost; money going to the business and not to retirement or time spent working versus with my toddler son. All I could do was cry. Not a soft, delicate, inconspicuous cry which would have been appropriate given I was sitting outside the cafe. I sobbed openly. My tears were not just for me; it was for all of us who are taking risks, forfeiting our futures for an idea today and sacrificing time that we will not get back. It hurts on many levels when folx do not invest.
Entrepreneurship is hard. Entrepreneurship as a womxn of color is even harder.
More intimately, entrepreneurship while working a full-time job, raising a 15-month old and making time for family, friends and myself, feels damn near impossible. I spend more time than I care to admit with my arms on my hips staring down my sense of inadequacy. I remind myself that I am far from incompetent however; I am at a serious disadvantage in a society crippled by capitalism’s push toward instant gratification and afflicted with racism and sexism.
Your support can mean the difference between the doors remaining open or being closed. More urgently, community support can make the difference between sanity and “insanity.”
Honestly, I have a sweet situation. My space is heavily subsidized and so is the labor. Cafe con Libros has a strong community of lovers and supporters alike. And, I do too. My inner circle both grounds and uplifts me. They speak life into me when I want to give up and celebrate when I achieve the tiniest of goals. And still, keeping the business solvent and relevant has been difficult and draining.
Black entrepreneurs cannot survive without the explicit support of our immediate and distant communities. We simply cannot. Most of us have had to scale mountains to get to where we are and that is just opening the doors. A great deal of us still struggle to accrue the capital it takes to implement all the shiny ideas written on our dream lists. In other words, we grow at slower rates than our counterparts if at all.
I believe investing in Black owned businesses is literally a political act. When folx say “yassss” at the news of yet another Black person opening a business, it’s because you know that “open” sign is transgressive and in keeping with our ancestral proclivity toward providing for our own. It’s also celebrating our fictive kinship; when one wins, we all win!
We need your help. While the best type of support is intentionally investing your money in a Black Owned Business, there are more ways to ensure sustainability.
Here’s my personal list...
1. Shop Black - Shop Local
2. Follow Black Owned Brooklyn to find businesses that will cater to your every need (Ryan and I use this faithfully!)
3. Follow Black Owned Businesses on ALL of our social media platforms
4. Subscribe to the newsletters, podcasts, etc. of Black Owned Businesses
5. REFER, REFER, REFER
6. Post beautiful pictures of our spaces and share about your experience
7. Leave positive reviews on Google, Yelp, etc.
8. Offer constructive feedback to us via email; not on social media
9. Use your access to elevate; if you know a reporter, pitch the story
10. Do No Harm: Treat our space both inside and out with respect
It means something when you choose Café con Libros. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.