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The New Voice of Small Business

The New Voice of Small Business

The face of small business is changing. Every day, women and people of all different races and ethnicities join the great American pursuit of entrepreneurship and success. BusinessNewsDaily asked small business owners who consider themselves to be members of a minority group to share their thoughts about how who they are has affected their businesses.

I never viewed myself as a "minority" owner — although suffice to say, being a young, Jewish, female executive in the advertising business in a blue-collar town was certainly challenging. Interestingly, I think age was also a barrier. It was very difficult to break into larger corporations being both young and female. Over the course of 30 years, I would have to say yes, [things have changed]. Not only is it more acceptable to be a woman and own a business, it's almost commonplace. It's also easier. There are more child care options — more employers that are flexible with time. Clients accept that you might want to catch a soccer game or attend a recital.  It's okay to admit that you want to run a business and be a good mother. 
-- Ellen Fruchtman, fruchtman.com

We have really made progress here in the U.S. and even worldwide. People are much more open-minded than in past decades. Now the issues are good service, value, honesty, etc., not so much your ethnic origin.
-- Pablo Solomon, pablosolomon.com

I definitely do feel that if I were to have attempted to start this business as an openly gay man even two decades ago, I would have faced even more of an uphill battle just for my sexual orientation than I do now. I do feel that in today's society, people are much more open to gay business owners, but it also depends on what type of business and how large it is. In terms of challenges, at times it has been an uphill battle.
-- Steven Le Vine, theprgrapevine.com

I am a black woman who owns VIP Mobile Day Spa. I actually have not experienced any challenges since being in business. I have, however, considered not putting my face out there in Facebook pictures associated with the business, but my company is all about female empowerment and that would totally defeat the purpose.
I feel like I work hard like any other business owner and that my work should speak for itself.
-- Cameo Person, vipmobiledayspa.com

I personally do not think of myself as a minority business owner. The only challenge I’ve sometimes faced is in client acquisition activities. Companies generally do business with people/companies that they feel comfortable with.  To that end, it is sometimes hard to establish that comfort level.
-- Mostansar Virk, epictranslations.com

As a young [Asian] entrepreneur (25 years old), I have only worked in business for the last six years. However, these past few years have not been without some very distinct observations. Minority entrepreneurship has increased over this time as the Internet has propelled collaborators past both geographic and racial boundaries.
I don't see myself [as a minority], nor do those who have worked with me. Perhaps it is because the past decade alone has seen major milestones regarding the outstanding growth of minority business. Specifically, however, I believe from experience that the people who are focused on attitude, not differences, are the right people to work with who in the end will profit together.
-- Chad Casey, pricefalls.com

We're a certified Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and definitely feel that it has become more hospitable for minority and women business owners over the past several years. With our management team having over 30 years industry experience, we've seen the ups and downs over time and definitely feel that being a women-owned business is an advantage for us.
-- Tej Shah, bluesodapromo.com

I do think that, for the most part, the climate has changed in a positive direction for minority business owners in most fields, but not in mine. African-Americans are still quite scarce in e-commerce. In fact, unless you are a 15-year-old white guy, the world is really not much interested in your startup. You really have to fight for respect. I was in management in corporate America for more than a decade before I started my business. That doesn't matter. African-Americans in e-commerce just don't get noticed, not at all.
-- Maria Falconer, rambles.com

What is clear to me is that there continues to be a lot of culture-based misunderstanding and bias in the business world and in the world in general. I've worked with hundreds of leaders across various types and sizes of organizations and over and over again the "people are just like me" theme emerges. This is clearly untrue and leads to many a misunderstanding and judgments that cost people their sense of self-respect and purpose — and sometimes jobs.
-- Kendra M. Coleman, kindredorg.com

Yes, [the world] is certainly more hospitable, but the stats say that the decks are certainly stacked against minority business owners. In the tech world — my area — there is a paucity of minority-owned startups, and they get less funding. African-Americans make up one percent of Internet startup founders, and receive an average of $900,000 less in startup funding than white founders, [according to] Black Web 2.0 2009. That being said, personally, I can’t say that I’ve faced any discrimination that I’m aware of.  Anecdotally, people in tech do seem to have less preconceptions since they are younger and open to new things such as technology. Also, I do see myself as a black business owner, and it does shape my thinking to some extent.
-- Bryce Colquitt, jollydigital.com

I think that the world seems to be smaller because of the new ways that we communicate with one another. The new advances in science and technology seem to be growing at rapid speeds, connecting all of us in more efficient ways. In the past decade alone, technology has changed so much with new advances in social networking, the Internet and even wireless communication. This connectivity makes strangers seem like neighbors and consumers feel like business partners.
I believe that with this new outlook on the world — and new attitudes toward communicating with minorities — there are fewer barriers and less extreme attitudes toward minorities, love or hate. I still think that business is as business was — everyone wants the best products, in better condition at lower prices.
-- Fernando Lara, schlotzskys.com/2320

I have run into several situations where I was not able to move forward with business negotiations because I am not minority certified. While I am clearly a minority — as a woman and as an African-American — I have not completed the required certification process. I find it ironic that many doors are not open to me because I have not elected to use being a minority as a marketing tool. I have had my product rejected by boutique owners because my African-American daughter is featured on the packaging. I have had several people recommend that I not represent my own product to companies because I am less likely to make sales as an African-American woman. My website designer, who was of European
descent, recommended that I not use only minority images on the site
because my product would not be taken seriously.
-- Tangela Walker-Craft, simplynecessary.com

I only promote myself as a minority-owned business to those companies that I know have a commitment to hiring minority-owned firms. I'm concerned about the recent movements to abolish set aside programs however, because I don't believe that the playing field is yet level.
-- Loretta Love Huff, EmeraldHarvest.com

I do define myself as a minority business owner. I continued to be frustrated by how my darker skin and eyes seemed to overshadow my know-how and intelligence. But I learned how to work with this stigma and used it to surround myself by people who value diversity and recognize that differing and various perspectives make for a much more successful workplace. I also learned that being a woman meant that I had to work much harder, much longer, much smarter. A minority business ownership will be what you make it. If you set out thinking that the world may have become more hospitable, then you might overlook a bunch of traps or people that could be trying to take advantage. If on the other hand, you set out to be successful with a mindset that you will be successful because you have the skills and leadership qualities to overcome inhospitable people or circumstances, then you will triumph!  Here's to it!
-- Shahira Raineri, handandstone.com