Black Businesses are not Thriving Because They are Ignoring Their Mental Health

Hello Royalty,

I’m recovering from an awesome time at “The Crowning” Create Your Own Self-Care Toolkit event! The Conscious Queens and I had a wonderful time meditating, getting massages, creating our crowns and more!

As my first workshop ever, it was challenging to say the least. I experienced so many setbacks that emotionally, for a second (ok, maybe a few hours), I was “Set-back.” Fear had overcome me because as my guests arrived, I did not want them to think “There goes another Black business for you!”

This brings me back to several months ago when I got into an argument with a friend for calling his practice “a black owned business.” He was so angry that we literally stopped talking. At the time, I could not understand it. I mean after all, he was Black and he owned a business. It wasn’t until I went through the processes of launching The Conscious Queen did I realize that there is a stigma that comes along with being identified as a Black business owner that I did not want associated with my brand.

Black business owners are painted with statements such as “poor customer service,” lack of follow through, fraudulent and more. In reality, Black business owners are challenged with limited resources, lack of support and a plethora of mental health challenges.

A recent study conducted by Michael A. Freeman, M.D., Sheri L. Johnson, Ph.D., Paige J. Staudenmaier, and Mackenzie R. Zisser (2015) found that in a sample of 242 entrepreneurs, approximately 72% of them expressed experiencing mental health concerns. When paired with the fact that only 25% of Blacks actually seek mental health treatment, continued neglect for one’s mental health can contribute to limited motivation, lack of productivity, memory challenges and more. All of which can have a detrimental effect on a business.

The mental health of our entrepreneurs is often times neglected until it is too late. With the lost of pioneers such as Don Cornelius, creator of Soul Train, Titi Branch of Ms. Jessie’s and most recently Lowell Hawthorne, CEO and founder of Golden Krust due to suicide, it is important that we note the stress associated with success is significant and real. As I spoke to several business owners, they all shared of experiencing anxiousness, in which one stated “Then I don’t have no one to talk to about it because none of my friends are business owners.”

The creator of Soul Train committed suicide at the age of 75 reportedly of stress associated with health challenges. (Paul Natkin- Wire Image)

In addition, there is pressure to be twice as better to get the respect you deserve. Another friend stated “Although the White company can employ 10 employees to ensure their workshop goes off without a hitch, you (a Black business owner), despite having no employees, have to make sure you start on time, your speakers are engaging, your guests have all of their supplies and then some. No one cares about the circumstances outside of your control that may cause you not to have everything in order.” Another close friend of mine shared about launching her business, “I’m scared. My product has to be priced for what they think it’s worth versus what it’s really worth. My customer service has to be over the top in order for customers to return.”

Titi Branch, Co-founder of Miss Jessie’s who reportedly killed herself over challenges within her personal life. (Photo: Miss Jessie’s website)

Such  comes from the cognitive distortions many Blacks experience that Whiteness is equivalent to rightness or excellence. It reminds me of an episode of Sanford and Son when Fred had a dentist appointment and he rather receive services from the White dentist versus the Black dentist, despite him being less qualified. In reflecting on my own experiences, I recount numerous occasions in which I have been disappointed in White businesses due to their lack of follow through or poor customer service. Maybe even more than I have with Black businesses. As I share my experiences, I don’t recall a discussion regarding such leading to the questioning of their integrity to saying or hearing “Well, you know how White businesses are.” We tend to be a bit more understanding, accepting of their enhanced financial capabilities and their solutions to our concerns.

Lowell Hawthorne, CEO of Golden Krust committed suicide in December 2017 over reported fear of tax debt. (Photo: Ricky Flores/The Journal News)

That does not mean that we let our Black business owners off the hook for the negative commonalities they share. I can tell you, it has been disheartening to reach out to Black owned businesses and receive no phone call or email back. It’s frustrating to request a service, it not be delivered and receive a “I mean, there’s nothing I can do for you.” It’s been infuriating to not get a sorry when one was warranted.  A lot is the result of stress, anxiety and depression that is not being addressed.

Sometimes success comes at a price and while business maybe booming for one, the lack of sleep is having a significant impact on one’s mood and ability to interact with others respectfully.  One business’s downfall could be the result of the owner feeling overwhelmed, generating a lack of response to emails. And to be honest, exhaustion can be a downfall, especially for the business owners who have to hold down a 9-5 while also starting their business (Hey, I’ve been so exhausted, this post should have been out 5 days ago!).

So how do we resolve such?

We start becoming real about what mental health challenges we are experiencing. We become more focused on our self-care as it plays an important role in the success of our businesses. I’m thankful for platforms like Dr.  Janae Taylor’s Minding My Black Business or Erica D. Clark’s B.O.B (Black Owned Businesses), which fosters the importance of such. As patrons, loved ones and admirers of Black owned businesses, we show our support, we applaud them for their successes. We hit that like button, we repost their sales, posts, etc. We go to their events, we offer CONSTRUCTIVE  feedback.

With a rise in Black businesses of more than 34% according to the 2012 Survey of Business Owners, there is no reason that our community cannot experience economic empowerment. So now the question lies within you.  What are you going to do to help in this fight for economic and mental freedom?