By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
When she first launched Audrey’s Artistry in 2016, Faith “Audrey Monroe” Merritt, didn’t know what resources were available for small businesses just starting out.
“I think putting more resources in our communities to teach us and help younger entrepreneurs or younger kids that want to start a business, what that looks like and how they can go about doing that… will be a great spotlight to showcase and help those businesses,” said the makeup artist and cosmetic brand owner.
To support minority business ownership like Merritt’s, Birmingham city leaders on Monday announced a new campaign with Mastercard and Urban Impact called #BuyBlackBham to urge residents to shop at more than 400 Black-owned businesses listed on www.buyblackbham.com during the holiday shopping season.
While more than 70 percent of Birmingham’s population is Black, only 3 percent of businesses are Black-owned. This initiative is centered on supporting local, Black-owned businesses as they continue to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
City officials said Black-owned businesses tend to be smaller, operate with less capital, and have less established banking relationships than counterparts. #BuyBlackBham will serve as a catalyst in how the community uplifts and supports Black-owned businesses.
As part of the campaign, residents can upload pictures of receipts from these businesses to enter two separate raffles, one on Dec. 17 and another on Jan. 4.
“We can all do our part, and we should all do our part in supporting our Black-owned businesses, these holidays,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin who added that the spending campaign will hopefully be a step toward something bigger for Black business owners in the city.
“We want this to transition from a campaign into a community of support,” he said in a statement. “I am committed to building a resilient and inclusive economy. This program is one of many to support and grow Black businesses which have been historically under-resourced.”
Urban Impact Inc., a local economic development nonprofit, is leading the campaign.
Ivan Holloway, executive director for Urban Impact, said the campaign is an opportunity for residents to “have a little fun” and “spend your hard-earned cash with African American businesses.”
#BuyBlackBham is the latest partnership between Birmingham and Mastercard. Birmingham is one of seven cities in Mastercard’s “In Solidarity” program that seeks to close “the racial wealth and opportunity gap for Black Americans.” In August, Birmingham and Mastercard announced a program to give local minority, cash-only businesses the technology and training to go digital.
Miguel Gamiño Jr., an executive vice president for Mastercard, said “communities and economies thrive” when small businesses thrive but that those businesses need support. Black-owned businesses have unique struggles, he said.
“Small business owners need partners that will listen, that will help develop innovative solutions, support access to capital and growth opportunities to drive access to the digital economy,” Gamiño said, “and the impact on Black-owned businesses, in particular, has been even more pronounced, exacerbated by longstanding racial, wealth and opportunity gaps.”
A Level Playing Field
Merritt, makeup artist and owner of Audrey’s Artistry, said the Black-owned business community in Birmingham is “a great network” that could benefit from the #BuyBlackBham campaign.
“You have the food industry, you have the beauty industry, you have your nonprofit organizations that are doing a lot,” Merritt said. “I know a few life coaches, as well, that are doing amazing within the city, so I think this will be a great spotlight to kind of showcase all of those businesses.”
Mekeia Fox, a life coach and owner of Fox On Demand LLC, said the #BuyBlackBham campaign could provide exposure to a business that may not be able to pay for marketing. The exposure could level the playing field, she said.
“A lot of black business owners may feel like they don’t have a good advantage . . . and everyone should understand and accept the fact that we’re all equal,” she said.
The spending campaign began Cyber Monday and will continue through Kwanzaa, January 1, 2022. The #BuyBlackBham platform, developed by an African-American owned development studio, JWEB Development, allows citizens to scan, upload and text receipts and invoices from business purchases. Those creating a profile to log their receipts from Black-owned businesses located in the City of Birmingham will qualify for a raffle of prizes and rewards. Log receipts at BuyBlackBham.com or text receipts to 205-900-4750. The first drawing will be Friday, December 17 and the second will occur Tuesday, January 4.
For more information on the campaign, visit www.buyblackbham.com.