By Katie Zakrzewski and Mark Carter
Myron Jackson of The Design Group in Little Rock has been in the communications industry for 23 years. In that time, he says the obstacles he faces as a Black business owner haven’t gone away — they’ve just changed. He fought for consideration when he first entered the industry; now he fights for “justification of why you should invest in the African American consumer segment.”
AMP caught up with Jackson to visit about the business environment for Blacks in Arkansas, obstacles faced by Black small-business owners and what could be done to ensure level playing fields.
In the post-George Floyd era, Jackson sees more goodwill, but that “changes based on the day.” He believes goodwill paired with good business will be the true catalyst for change.
AMP: Has the environment for Black business owners and entrepreneurs improved in the recent past?
Jackson: To be completely honest, we’re the state’s only multicultural communications company. I can only speak based on our business and the relationships that we have. Our experience may not be the same as the experiences of others. People do business with people, and it’s about relations.
When you’re a minority, you may not have the same relations that your non-minority counterparts may have. I didn’t go to Catholic High. My wife didn’t go to Mount St. Mary. I didn’t grow up in a gated community. It’s difficult to even get serious consideration. That was pre-COVID and George Floyd. We have to convince people that we have the longevity and capability to deliver a product.
Many of the communities that we’re working with are not the decision-makers, so we’re having to justify our decisions and existence. We’ve struggled in that regard.
AMP: What is the biggest obstacle faced by Black small business owners?
Jackson: I would say three things. A lack of relationships, which we talked about, access to capital, and access to opportunity. For access to capital, African American entrepreneurs are not first-generation entrepreneurs, and they’re not inheriting the business or wealth from parents and grandparents.
For this reason, many Black entrepreneurs have to be creative. For access to opportunity, black business owners need access to the decision-makers. This would also allow the decision-makers to be more aware of the Black business perspective.
AMP: What could be done to better ensure a level playing field for all?
Jackson: The two things that I recommend are intentionality and supply-chain diversity. We’re seeing a worldwide movement to have goodwill. When many people choose to be diverse, they look at it from a “goodwill” perspective instead of a “good business strategy” perspective.
Studies have shown that diversifying a business, whether it’s staff or consumers or supply chain, improves it.