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Checking In: How are Central Florida Black Business doing in 2023?

The entrance to the National Entrepreneur Center in Orlando. The NEC is home to the African American Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and more.
National Entrepreneur Center Facebook
The entrance to the National Entrepreneur Center in Orlando. The NEC is home to the African American Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and more.

For this week’s economics segment during Black History Month, WMFE’s Talia Blake caught up with Andrea Small, Director of Operations of the African American Chamber of Commerce Central Florida, to check in on the state of black businesses in our region.

Andrea Small is the Director of Operations at the African American Chamber of Commerce Central Florida
Andrea Small/African American Chamber of Commerce Central Florida
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Andrea Small/African American Chamber of Commerce Central Florida
Andrea Small is the Director of Operations at the African American Chamber of Commerce Central Florida

Current State

In June 2022, Glen Gilzean, the president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, told WMFE that black business in Central Florida were "still in challenging times" two years after businesses had to shut down because of the pandemic.

Now, a year later, Amanda Smalls said the situation hasn't changed much.

"We are pretty much in the same situation that we have been when the pandemic hit." she said. "What we found was about 40% of black owned businesses closed. We do not know how many were able to reopen."

A recent report by Prosperity Now found that 3.4% of businesses in the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area are black owned.

Throughout Florida, black ownership makes up 2.6% compared to 2.2% across the country, according to the report.

"When you look at it as a whole," said Small. "The numbers are still very low."

When entrepreneurs come to the African American Chamber of Commerce Central Florida, Small said finances are top of mind.

"The number one thing that we hear the most is funding, it's the access to capital, their ability to get the funds that will allow them to grow and sustain their businesses."

Small said that's why it's important for business owners to build a good relationship with their financial institution.

Preparing for a possible recession

Some economists are predicting a recession in 2023.

Small said that will not only black businesses, but everyone.

Here are 3 tips for business owners to prepare:

1. Develop Relationships

"I would say that's the biggest thing, especially with the financial institutions, with your banks," she said. "Get to know them. Let them get to know you. Those relationships are critical."

2. Learn What You Don't Know

"There's a lot of information out there that's going to help you ensure that your business continues to be successful and grow. So do your research, come to workshops, come to seminars."

3. Networking with Meaning

When attending a networking event, Small said you will meet people who may or may not be able to do business directly with you, but they may know someone who could.

"Make meaningful connections during those events, don't just come and hang out on the side, and not talk to anybody, and hand out a card or two."

How to support Black Business in Central Florida

To find a black owned business in Central Florida, Small said you can visit the African American Chamber of Commerce Central Florida's website and use their Black Business Map.

"It is so diverse. We are looking at boutiques, catering, restaurants, whatever you could possibly think of," she said. "I think that's a really good place to start."

When black businesses succeed, Small said its more than just an opportunity to money to flow back into the community.

"I think that it contributes to having a diverse perspective as it relates to the community as a whole. When you have black owned businesses there they are able to share their experiences and have different and unique ways of looking at things that may not have been present or put on the table had they not been there."

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to WMFE, the station that grew her love for public radio. She graduated with a double-major in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!). While at UCF, she was an intern for WMFE’s public affairs show, Intersection. In her spare time, Talia is an avid foodie and enjoys working out.
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