Black business owners cautiously optimistic about 2021, survey finds

Black small-business owners see signs for optimism in 2021, according to a Bank of America survey.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, found that about half of the repondents expect revenue to increase this year, while roughly a quarter of the participants expect to hire. The survey included 307 owners of businesses with annual revenue of $100,000 to $5 million.

The Black Business Owner Spotlight was part of a wider survey of more than 1,000 small-business owners conducted between July 29 and Sept. 3. The broader study found that about two-thirds of respondents expect revenue to be flat or down next year, and only 13% plan to be in hiring mode.

The survey revealed a sense of “cautious optimism” among Black business owners, said Sharon Miller, the Charlotte, N.C., company’s head of small business. She noted that about half of the participants said they had retooled their operations to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, which was double the national average.

At the same time, more 80% of Black business owners said they believe they must work harder to achieve the same level of success as other entrepreneurs, while 56% said challenges accessing capital have limited their growth opportunities.

Inequality and access to capital have received heightened attention given the pandemic’s disportionately negative impact on communities of color and after the deaths of George Floyd and other African-Americans at the hands of police last year.

Bank of America’s Black Business Owner Spotlight followed a survey of community bankers that found that 43% don’t expect the economy to completely rebound from the pandemic until 2022, while a quarter said it could more time.

About 43% of Black small-business owners said they expect improvement in the national economy in 2021, according to the Bank of America survey. Black entrepreneurs are more optimistic long-term, with two-thirds forecasting growth in the number of businesses owned by people of color.

The report is Bank of America’s first to focus on Black small business owners. The company plans to release more that look at Asian-American, Hispanic and women small business owners.

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