A St. Louis woman saw a need: Black business owners struggling to connect with potential customers. So, she decided to do something about it. Jas Thomas and her organization, Girls With Goals, established the Black Business Expo, which is being held Saturday at Legacy Cafe in St. Louis.
Thomas says the goal of the event is to promote local black-owned businesses among consumers who might not be aware of them.
“I’m bringing them all together in one space,” Thomas said. “It’s really to promote the financial growth within our community among entrepreneurs.”
More than 30 business owners will participate in the expo, Thomas said. Vendors include non-profits, publishers and cosmetic lines. The event is free and open to everyone. Proceeds from vendor fees will go to support programs for high school girls.
The number of black-owned businesses has increased over the last decade. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Business Owners, shows the number of black-owned businesses in Missouri increased from about 25,000 to 36,000 between 2007 to 2012. That’s a 47 percent increase.
Still, the barriers to enter the marketplace continue to be a challenge for aspiring black business owners.
“African-Americans historically have not had the institutional funding available from a historical standpoint to pass along for generations to generations,” said Eddie G. Davis, the president and executive director for the Center for the Acceleration of African American Business. “Therefore, African-Americans start primarily at the lower end of the totem pole.”
Davis said other factors also contribute to black business owners not having the same economic strengths as their white counterparts, including not meeting the criteria banks have set up to create a sustainable business.
Supporting black business owners will create more revenue and wealth that can circulate within the black community, Davis said.
“Once you get the wealth generation created, it can create jobs for individuals in the African-American community, and those jobs can parlay into the purchase of homes, the purchase or automobiles and a healthy economic lifestyle for the community.”
Thomas founded Girls with Goals in 2015. She said the goal of the organization is to promote positive images and opportunities for black women. Now she is using this expo to expand her reach to promote local black-owned businesses.
“I know so many black business owners. I know so many people who have different products and services that they offer,” Thomas said. “And sometimes it’s hard to reach them because we don’t know where they are.”
Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis.