If you’re responsible for revenue and sustainability of your business or organization, I have a simple question for you. When is the last time you sat down with someone with the goal of simply telling them what you do? If the answer isn’t within the last week, you’re not being the most effective advocate for your business. 

Often during conversations with black-owned or black-led businesses, I see often a lack a consistent strategy to engage with elected or appointed officials to advocate on their behalf. 

Attending fund-raisers and “how to do business with” events are great, but if you haven’t been intentional in explaining what you do, what you need, and being clear and reasonable with your asks, you’re not efficiently maximizing your relationships or your time.
This is standard practice for many majority-owned or led businesses. They have the resources to invest in this process and reap the benefits from it. 
Broad economic disparities in black America are a given. The support that black-owned business need to develop requires a comprehensive partnership between government agencies, elected officials, advocacy organizations, non-profits, and private-sector entities. This support creates greater access to capital, training, technical assistance, mentoring, and networking opportunities. 
While policymakers and philanthropists can play a role, it is incumbent of the business lead to identify what they want their partnership to look like. Your business support circle should include people who are invested in your success. Your efforts should be working toward at least one member from one of the following agencies/organizations that you can say “yeah that person knows who we are and has my back.”
  • The African American Chamber of Commerce is a leading advocate throughout the Delaware Valley for minority-owned businesses.  They work to enhance the footprint of African American businesses throughout the region, which in turn helps lift the economic fortunes of the black community.  They are a strong advocate for job and economic opportunities for African Americans.
  • City of Philadelphia Office of Economic Opportunity works with the business community in Philadelphia to seek out and build alliances with minority-, women-, and disabled-owned businesses, the city, and private industry. Iola Harper is the lead of this organization. If Iola doesn't know who you are and what you do, you're missing out on growth opportunities. 
  • Pa.'s Department of General Services' Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion & Small Business Opportunities works with diverse small businesses, including minority-, women-, veteran-, and LGBT-owned enterprises, to help them compete for contracts throughout the Commonwealth.
  • The Office of Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke's legislative and policy agendas include focuses on mandating inclusion of opportunities for minority-owned businesses. Former City Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. serves as a senior adviser and has been a long-time champion for economic development for women- and minority-owned businesses.
Your C-Suite advocacy process should include creating a “campaign” for your business, a process to keep your circle engaged with updates on progress and recognizing your most ardent advocates. This will create a feedback loop of accountability that will allow you to measure the progress and effectiveness of your advocacy efforts. 
In addition to intentional advocacy, consider joining or creating a coalition of other black-owned businesses. A coalition offers multiple entities working toward the same goal to increase the chance of success;  enhanced experiences, expertise, and resources; and most importantly, the opportunity to network and collaborate with other peers facing common challenges.

There’s been a theme among black-owned businesses to work in silence and not share your next move. I believe this is outdated, counterproductive to business growth, and leads to more competition instead collaboration. It is impossible for others to help you if they don’t understand your business and your goals and challenges. 

Mustafa Rashed is the President/CEO of Bellevue Strategies, LLC a minority- and veteran-owned government affairs and strategic communications firm.