BY LAUREN POTEAT
According to a recent study done by Guidant Financial, Black-owned businesses have seen a dramatic increase since 2015, particularly among Black women.
However, in the same survey, it was also reported that while the number of Black-owned businesses are at an all-time high, Black-owned business sustainment and substantial economic growth remain stagnant.
Working to better close economic gaps and help nurture Black communities to achieve greater financial excellence, Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, the first Black Greek-lettered business sorority, established in 1929, sets off its 90th anniversary with a call to action for people of color to “rule in the art of business.”
“There’s an issue with sustaining Black-owned businesses,” outgoing 22nd National Iota Phi Lambda President Stephanie Dilworth said. “On June 1, our organization will celebrate 90 years of nationwide service, so it is extra important that we continue to help support our communities and work to build economic opportunities, specifically geared toward other Black people.”
“Our organization is comprised of women committed to the growth of our communities that really need our support and we are working very hard to make sure that we equip our people to have wealth that they can pass on to the next generations,” Dilworth continued.
The same business survey also went on to list some of the main reasons for loss of Black business growth, including a tight labor market, challenges with recruiting and retaining employees and lack of capital and cash flow.
In a previous ProjectDiane report, which provides information about Black women and startup funding, only 0.2 percent of all venture capital funding was allocated toward startups founded by Black women in 2016, while just 34 Black women business owners received more than a million dollars of funding in the years previous.
Emphasizing community empowerment, Dilworth also noted how important it was for Black people to support Black-owned businesses.
“The creation of Black-owned businesses is at an all-time high, but keeping them going is difficult, especially with limited access to capital,” Dilworth said.
“People will complain about smaller, Black-owned businesses having slightly higher prices than their competitors and then spend their money with those same competitors instead, not realizing that most of these mainstream companies, have more access to capital and revenue,” Dilworth continued.
“If we want to get smaller Black-owned businesses generating that same kind of revenue, then we have to ‘Buy Black.’ We have to spend with them and help support them in their growth.’’
FOCUS ON YOUTH
Committed to all aspects of business, Iota Phi Lambda also strongly encourages youth entrepreneurship, pushing communities to lay the groundwork for youth business-minded endeavors early.
“For Iota Phi Lambda, it is important that we teach and build them young,” Dilworth said. “We take pride in our youth and truly do believe they are our future.”
“Most of our business workshops and programming are geared toward our millennials, from our Youth: Future Iota Leaders mentoring program, to our Lola M. Parker Foundation and scholarships, to our recent partnership with Microsoft for our previous IGNITE Youth Leadership and Innovation convention, we are committed to the youth.”
HELPING TEENS, MOMS
Iota Phi Lambda sorority supports other non-business-focused programs, including its Iota Mothers Assistance Program—which provides outreach services to teen and disadvantaged mothers, and their Toys “U” Can’t Return program—a teen pregnancy prevention project designed to help educate communities about teen pregnancy and develop effective action agendas for preventing children from having children.
“If everyone remembers to reach back, there’s no limit to what we can do,” Jennifer Porter, National Chairwoman of Toy’s “U” Can’t Return said. “I am so proud to be able to be a part of an organization that does so much for our community and want to help see it flourish so that we can continue to support so many people. We have been around for 90 years, which is a testament to our love and support from our community.”
This year, Iota Phi Lambda’s national convention is scheduled to take place in Shreveport, Louisiana, July 24–28, in preparation for the sorority’s opening of a permanent official headquarters in Washington, D.C.