From holding workshops that teach marketing strategies to helping businesses get Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) certified, the LIAACC’s mission is to rebuild Black businesses in New York State, president of LIAACC, Phil Andrews, said.
“Our businesses are so small, they don’t have accounting firms,” said Andrews. “They don’t have the accounting skills to process loans like that.”
Partnering with the Small Business Administration (SBA), LIAACC held workshops on a weekly basis to address the impacts the pandemic has on small businesses in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Brooklyn. Many members of the chamber did not know how to process Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans, he said.
“We lost like 90% of our business,” said the owner of Absolutely Trophies Inc., Paul Williams. “We are a small business, you really don’t have a lot of other groups to lean on, or even bounce ideas off of – and that’s where the Chamber of Commerce has been helpful.”
Williams said that Andrews, who he has known for four years since joining the chamber, gave him direction when it came to applying for PPP loans in March. The chamber also helped his business become certified as a minority member, which “opened up a lot of doors as far as other business opportunities with the city and state,” he said.
When the pandemic’s economic consequences were at their prime from shutdowns, more than 40% of Black business owners reported they were not working in April, while 17% of white small business owners reported the same, according to an analysis of government data by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
“A lot of the time in Black communities, when these crises hit, we do not have the excess capital store,” said Andrews. “When you take a drastic cut in sales, like now in this economy, a small business that was already struggling to make ends meet and enough to get something out of working in a business, it crushes the business.”
In early September, the U.S. African American Business Directory was established to help Black communities find Black-owned businesses across the country. Shades of Long Island also has a business directory to help find Black, Hispanic and Asian businesses on Long Island.
LIAACC partnered with Wish Local, an eCommerce marketplace, to reach members of the chamber via online programs. In early October, Wish also announced that it is launching a $2 million fund to support Black-owned businesses that are eligible to apply for a $500 to $2,000 grant.
Founder of QDM Enterprise Inc., Adewunmi Green, said that her business joined the LIAACC two years ago and that their membership has been needed during this difficult time.
“We’ve been encouraged to bring other business owners to come in and showcase your business and network, which I think is a great help,” said Green. “You never know who you might need or may have a need for your service.”