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Race in Business: How Far to Go?

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Recently, I was reading an article by Zachary Raynell Rinkins at Black Enterprise, excoriating black businesses for not spending more of their advertising budgets in black publications. Now, I realise that I don’t operate in the States, but the overwhelming sentiment that I was left with by the end of the article was “Why? Why should business be this way?”

With the economy the way it is, one would assume that all businesses, regardless of who is running them, would want as many paying customers as possible. It could be that black businesses in traditionally do not spend much on magazine advertising, or it could be that non-black businesses generally spend more on marketing and promotion efforts. Whatever the reasons, I do have some issues with the notion that black businesses are somehow obliged to spend their money with black publications.

Some black businesses are going to be very market-specific. Haircare, for example, is not an area where I’d expect to see salons handling black hair targeting the same consumers are their caucasian-oriented counterparts. But other businesses, in particular services, should feel comfortable advertising anywhere, regardless of the racial profile of the business or their potential customers. A black-owned accountancy practice should not feel that they should target the majority of their marketing budget at the black community simply because of a common skin colour, just as I would have no qualms about using an Asian-owned recruitment agency if I was looking for work.

Networking and forming links with other businesses from the same ethnic background can be a good thing, in forging a sense of community and making useful contacts that you may be able to profit from at a later date. But if taken too far, it can also lead to a ghettoisation of your business. Placing racial considerations above business fundamentals is a bad idea. While it may seem easier, it also cuts you off from different ideas and is essentially limiting the size of your marktet.

It’s all very well to want to “give back” to the community you come from, and to harness the collective power in that community to give everyone a leg up. However, if you find that this has become an overriding concern in how you conduct your affairs, you are no longer running a business, but a community outreach scheme.

[Image by Beadmobile]


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