NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA–As Businesses across the country try to exist under the coronavirus, some are feeling the effects more than others, including minority owned businesses.
As June, 2020 came in on the heels of the Blacks Lives Matter protests, many took to social media and their local communities to push the issue of the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses. Kelisha Garrett is the Executive Director for the New Orleans Black Chamber of Commerce and says, “We need to be on equal playing field. Even though regulation has stated things are equal, we have had years of disadvantages. Just as black lives matter, black business survival matters.”
A study by the University of California Santa Cruz, found in April, 40 percent of black-owned businesses had to close, compared to 17 percent of white-owned businesses. In cities like Atlanta, and New Orleans, there have been numerous African Americans owning their own business for hundreds of years. Sonjauh Green is the owner of NOLA Organic Spa, a business that had the hard decision to have to close it’s doors with the hopes of reopening in 2021 saying, “with the savings that was there, it was used to pay bills and make sure that employees and their families were ok and the building rent was still do, so I had no choice but to shut down. What do I do now?”
The effects of the virus on the economy are far reaching and recently, the Federal Reserve is noticing a shortage of coins across the country. The unexpected result is due to socially distanced shoppers who are not spending coins but instead using other forms of payment. Nationwide, banks deposits in the form of coins have dropped by 50 percent.
Some businesses now are making the decision to not include cash as a payment option. Cashless business can be a difficult in communities of color, where 17 percent of African Americans and 14 percent of Hispanics do not have bank accounts.
Darreonna Charles works at The Coco Hut Caribbean Restaurant on New Orleans’ historic Afro-centered Bayou Road and says, “a couple of years ago, we only did cash. Now we do, Uber, cash and credit cards. People don’t carry cash anymore. People are scared about the things happening in the streets and it’s more convenient for them to carry a card and not a pocket full of money.”
The New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce says that the pandemic has cemented that virtual transaction is now the new cash economy and is a trend that was moving forward long before the coronavirus. Apps like Cash App, Venmo and Paypal are giving minority businesses a powerful new brand awareness and a reach far outside local communities.
“Cash has always been king. It is the easiest form of currency that can be moved. It’s so much easier than having to go to a bank and making traditional deposits. Unfortunately the way things are going now, cash is limited. I think that businesses can get into that online presence. There are a couple of initiatives on facebook like Where Black NOLA Eats that help with a mission of being deliberate and intentional about where you are spending your dollars.”
The New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce has a full list of Black-owned business here. Businesses featured in this news story are as follows:
Coco Hut Caribbean Restaurant
Dooky Chase Restaurant
Loretta’s Authentic Pralines
NOLA Man Spa
NOLA Organic Spa
The Half Shell on the Bayou