ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With medical experts predicting African American communities will be among the hardest hit by the coronavirus in the public health sense, another pandemic-related concern has arisen in black communities — the potential death of black-owned businesses.
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Antonio Brown, owner of Central Station Barbershop and Grooming in St. Petersburg, initially didn’t think he would have to close his doors.
“I was devastated, being that this is what I, how I take care of my family and how I eat,” Brown said.
Eating is one of the main worries when it comes to losing work in an underserved community. Brown said he wants to remind people despite the circumstances, help is out there.
“A lot of times in our community we’re too prideful to take charity and to take some of this off of our backs,” Brown said. “But I would tell them at this particular point it’s not a time to be prideful. It’s time to band together.”
Brown is taking his own advice by learning new trades and leaning on organizations that were put in place for times like these.
Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation’s President Albert Lee explained the unique position small black-owned businesses are in right now.
“Under normal circumstances African American businesses have a tendency to be under capitalized," Lee explained. "Meaning that either they started with debt, which makes it harder for them to operate and then of course they have less capitalization for out of pocket money."
The TBBIC is one of many that are partnering and offering loans, grants and just giving much needed advice to those business owners.
There are a number of resources available for small business owners, including a fund put together by the One Community team at the Pinellas County Urban League.
Lee advised business owners to search the web for organizations like the Community Development Financial Institutions and the Opportunity Finance Network. He also said checking in with the local small business development centers can be helpful, and small business owners can also reach out to the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation.