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Allison Kirk: Entrepreneurs are the Solution to the Black Unemployment Crisis

entrepreneursby Allison Kirk

Those places that felt safe to us, like the corner office or cozy cubical, the prestigious HBCU, and the “secure” job- aren’t safe anymore. And so, we have a major issue: an unemployment crisis. The national unemployment rate rose to 7.9% this past month. The past several years have been difficult for us all, but even more so for the black community- who is currently suffering from an unemployment rate of 13.8 percent (this is not including those who have not been counted as part of the Labor Force). As a result of this harsh reality, it has spilled over into lowering the quality of life in our communities via violence, increased poverty, and overall diminishing hope. What are we going to do about this? We can not continue to look for, and worse yet, wait for the administration to remedy this issue. We must begin to aggressively solve it ourselves. Many may ask, “who can, who will, and how can it be solved?” The answer: Entrepreneurs. But not those who we read in Forbes and Black Enterprise. If you’ve ever performed a generous act, solved a problem in a new and interesting way, saw something others didn’t see, spoken up when something needed to be said, you are apart of the solution. People like you and I. The responsibility is ours.

Entrepreneurs can solve the unemployment problem because quite simply, they are the minds that create jobs. They are the problem solvers of our society. And as a people, we can use our race to our advantage, because it has been made clear to us early on that we are less likely to be chosen. Less likely to be be valedictorian, chosen by the fancy college, or recruited to the Fortune 500 companies. Precisely why we have a history of “not fitting in”, we have little choice but to pick ourselves. The Black community needs more entrepreneurs and more importantly, it needs to support them. When a member of the (black) community opens a store, launches a catering service, or any business, it allows money to be generated and circulated, benefiting both the supporter and entrepreneur. That money can be used to contribute towards the progress of that community. It creates opportunities for employment, and allows the community to become active and vibrant, working cohesively as a system. The first step in putting this solution in place, is assessing what business/economic models we will follow and support and how it benefits our social construct. Entrepreneurs can do it, they have exactly what we need to solve the unemployment crisis, because they are unafraid and (for the most part) take responsibility.

For those who have already seen the light and have become entrepreneurs, thank you. You are the backbone to our economy. But playing such an important role, comes with a great price.The tough reality is that about half of new businesses won’t survive past the first five years, and approximately only 2 out of 10 new businesses will survive 15 years or more. It is crucial to understand that in order to make a dent in the unemployment rate, two very small, but significant things need to happen: new business must be supported and existing businesses need to be able to expand. Most importantly, it needs to be understood by the individuals of the community, why. Take for example a new local restaurant. As the patrons increase, the staff must increase. In other words, the collective power of the black community can manipulate employment by forcing a business to grow through its support.

And to those considering entrepreneurship, your dreams are important and they have the potential and power to tackle this issue. Be it a side business planning events, a dance school or a convenience store, know that with big dreams comes great responsibility and the lack thereof is even greater. Our actions speak louder than our words, dreams, and complaints we have every morning we make on our way to work (or not). And our collective action can speak louder than the unemployment rate. We don’t need to let it cripple us, and no longer should we use it as a crutch because we are afraid to follow our own dreams.This doesn’t have to be rocket science. Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can. Make the choice (right now) to choose yourself and become an entrepreneur in the community and/or decide that you will lend your support. Either way, it must be done. We are all in this together.

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