Why Some Black Businesses Hide That They Are Black-Owned

Written by Ann Brown

Duane Draughon used to hide the fact that he was the owner of a successful construction business in Chicago. Why? Because he was Black and feared his being Black would turn away potential customers. His strategy did work. His business was a $6-million company, but he was all but invisible in that company. There were no photos of him on the website; he often told people he was a project manager; he even recruited a white insurance company representative to conduct job interviews.

Over at Go Dutch Today the trio of African-American women founders decided to feature only one Black couple on the website for the dating and meeting app is Black.

“At the end of the day, we don’t want our brand to be Black,” CEO Alysia Sargent, a former digital account executive at BET, told the Chicago Tribune. “Obviously, we want Black people to utilize it. However, marketing has to be very broad and multicultural.

Some Black business owners are in hiding–and for a good reason.

“This isn’t new, it’s just packaged in a different way,” noted branding expert Sheila P. Coates of BYOB/Be Your Own Brand! told MadameNoire. “When I was an exec in the music business this same thought process existed. I worked in ‘Black’ music and never got the opportunity to work on pop records. But when a Black artist wanted to speak to the ‘general’ audience and crossover they were then handled by the white marketing executive. For some crazy reason, when [something’s] owned or operated by a Black person it can only go so far. That’s the same thing entrepreneurs are facing.”

Most Black entrepreneurs hide  ownership to appeal to broader market. “If the ownership of your business is not advertised, there is less of a chance of you being discriminated against by consumers who want your product or service but otherwise would be biased against you,” brand expert Aniesia Williams told MadameNoire.

But hiding your race can also harm your business. “It’s unnecessary to hide whether your company is Black-owned–or Hispanic-owned or Asian-owned–when you’re looking to reach a general audience because it’s the product that your company is offering that the audience will respond to. If you are successfully providing a general audience with a product or service that they seek out and consume regularly, then the race or ethnicity of the company’s owner shouldn’t matter,” Williams said.

And you might miss out on customers who want to buy from Black- and/or women-owned companies specifically. “There may be consumers who are looking specifically to get the product or service you offer from a Black-owned or woman-owned business. If your business is not advertised this way, you may get passed over,” Williams noted.

According to a 2014 Nielsen report on African-American buying habits, 55 percent of blacks with household incomes of at least $50,000 said they would buy or support a product if it was sold or supported by a person of color or minority-owned business. Only 20 percent of non-African Americans in the same income bracket felt the same. The report did not specify the answers of the remaining respondents.


black businesses
Duane Draughon, founder of VizX Design Studios (Image: Kristen Norman / Blue Sky)




black businesses
Alysia Sargent, co-founder of Go Dutch Today
(Image: Kristen Norman / Blue Sky)