KANSAS CITY, MO — Minority business owners in Kansas City said it’s not easy running a small business, working as the boss and the employee.
“I’m a solo-prenuer, which means I handcraft, formulate, label — do everything by myself,” Bare Nine Holistics owner Tineeca Hughes said.
Some entrepreneurs also said that owning a business changes how they approach the day-to-day operations of running a business.
“We are the people that are going to line the stuff, scheduling and getting inventory, so it’s way bigger than working for someone when you are working for yourself,” KJ Farmer, co-owner of shoe and clothing store One Pair, said.
The pandemic brought hardships to business owners, but it also brought attention to Black-owned businesses, Hughes said.
“The pandemic at first, it was a really good thing because people weren’t in stores anymore, so they were focused more on e-commerce businesses," she said. "Black businesses really went up during the pandemic, but when the stores opened again, people started to return back to target and all the brands that they know."
The pandemic not only brought attention to minority-owned businesses, but some minority entrepreneurs said it also pushed them to get their foot in the door.
According to Soy Bella Candles owner Endia Lasker, the pandemic sparked her entrepreneurial passion.
“It didn’t affect it in a hard way. If anything, the pandemic really pushed me into being an entrepreneur ... [The pandemic] gave me the opportunity as a single mom to kind of hone in one my gifts and maximize off of them," Lasker said. "It was like blessing in disguise almost, because I tap into things that I didn’t really know I was doing, and I’m still learning.”
Nonetheless, for minority-owned small businesses, support from loyal customers and pop-up events from organizers like The GIFT, which provides thousands of dollars in grants to black-owned businesses, help keep more than just their pockets full.
"I’m a single parent so I have two children and my bills and things like that. We also have to buy the materials for our products, and for someone like myself who really truly believes in not just myself but my brand, it means everything to me when people come out and they support me,” Lasker said.
The support that Lasker describes is something that Farmer, the co-owner of One Pair, said he felt not only after his business opened its doors one year ago in Kansas City, but also after it suffered a huge loss after being robbed earlier this year.
“They cleared all of our inventory out all the way from size 16 to 4c in children’s. They took over 100 pairs of shoes, probably over 120, but they also took our local clothing brands. So besides the shoe part, we let local brands come in and sell merchandise so they can get the feel for a storefront, and we got to help them get their inventory back in a small amount of time before our 1 year anniversary,” Farmer said.
Now back and better than ever, stores like One Pair, Soy Bella Candles and Bare Nine Holisitcs said as minority-owned businesses, they can’t continue to succeed without the help of the community.
“It was this minor setback with this major comeback,” Farmer said.
They said minority-owned businesses don't just need support on Small Business Saturday, but everyday.
“It gets our name out for one, and it shows us that we can be a community, and we can enjoy our own community, putting our money in it as well," Hughes said. "It gets people like me and people who just started as well, a face in the community.”