business open sign

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a hard hit for many. But with businesses forced to close for months at a time, it seems Black-owned businesses in Indianapolis were especially affected.

Local Black business owners are using these tough times as an opportunity to uplift other fellow Black businesses in the city. From hosting podcasts, social media blasts and creating online directories, these are just a few of the initiatives local business owners have undertaken to help one another. While initiatives such as these aren’t new, COVID-19 has resulted in a new urgency. 

“I created a form to get a little more information from our Black-owned businesses, and what I got back was very eye opening,” said Tamara Cypress, founder of the #BlackBusinessesMatter campaign in Indy. “Forty-two percent said that they needed help with websites, 57% said they needed help with social media, and over 60% said they’re not certified with the city.”

The statistics on a nationwide level may also be seen as concerning.

The Washington Post reported this year “the number of working African American business owners in the United States plummeted more than 40% as COVID-19 shut down much of the economy — a far steeper drop than other racial groups experienced.”

Cypress, like others, knew that something needed to be done. In partnership with the Indianapolis Urban League, the campaign entails weekly podcasts that showcase local Black businesses. 

“This is truly a passion campaign, intended to help, uplift and advocate for Black businesses,” Cypress added.

In a similar way, the Indy Black Chamber is also giving Black-owned businesses a shoutout in a partnership with WRTV. 

Every Friday, anywhere between one to four businesses are featured on the Indy Black Chamber’s Facebook page. These businesses are also featured on WRTV’s Facebook page and in the “Hiring Hoosiers,” “We’re Open Indy” and “The Rebound: Indiana” sections of its website. 

“We have a phone number available for viewers to call in and purchase things during the Facebook Live,” said Anita Williams, vice chair of Indy Black Chamber. “That’s what’s important right now: purchases need to be made so that they can stay in business.”

Bunmi Akintomide, founder of Shop Black Indy, is also using his platform to make local Black-owned businesses easily accessible.

Shop Black Indy, an online directory featuring Indy’s Black-owned businesses, is rapidly growing. As of July, the website features over 200 businesses. 

“I noticed a gap, and I wanted to make it easy for Black-owned businesses to be recognized, found and searched for,” said Akintomide. “Between June 1 and July 17, we’ve had almost 4,000 users on the website, from all over.”

Akintomide uses both personal and social media networks to seek out new businesses to add to the directory, but Black business owners can also register on the website, ShopBlackIndy.com

Despite the differences in the outlets used to promote Black businesses, local business owners have made it clear that all hands must be on deck to ensure the growth of a city-wide, Black-owned business network.

“All of our contributions together will help change the trajectory and change the narrative,” Cypress said. “We need everyone working together at the same time to make those real, equitable changes that we seek.”

Contact newsroom intern Mikaili Azziz at 317-924-5143. Follow her on Twitter @mikailiazziz.

Support Black businesses in Indy

Interested in supporting Black-owned businesses? Various initiatives are underway in Indy in an effort to promote Black businesses. 

Shop Black Indy: Online database featuring over 200 Black-owned businesses in Indy. To register your business or search for local Black businesses, visit the website.

Indy Black Chamber of Commerce: Five-year-old organization created to help educate, enhance and develop Black businesses. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

#BlackBusinessesMatter: Multi-faceted marketing campaign designed to serve and advocate for Black businesses. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

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