Destacado de conexiones comunitarias: Boss Moss

Este Mes de la Historia Negra, celebramos a los emprendedores negros y empoderamos a los negocios de afroamericanos con herramientas para el crecimiento y una subvención en asociación con la Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB). Learn about the economic growth of black-owned businesses, support provided by the CBBB, and grant recipient LaQuette Lucas below.

Black History Month has been celebrated in the United States every February since 1976 when President Gerald Ford extended the recognition to "honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." At Optimum Business, we dedicate the month to honoring our nation's Black history and recognize the sacrifices, hard work, and contributions made by Black entrepreneurs.

Black-owned businesses are crucial to growing the U.S. economy. In fact, recent studies show Black-owned companies have an economic impact of more than $1.4 billion annually. And even against the challenges caused by racial discrimination, recessions, and COVID-19, which has shuttered 41% Black-owned businesses, within these last few years, the percentage of active Black business owners has grown steadily, indicating a 33% increase in Black male business owners from the first quarter of 2020 to the third quarter of 2021. This marked the highest percentage change among all demographics. Interestingly, the second-highest percent change was among Black female active business owners during the same time, at 22%.

However, although Black entrepreneurship is on the rise, Black founders still contend with significant challenges to their growth and profitability. Research shows that minority-owned businesses often have higher borrowing costs, receive smaller loans, and are more likely to have their loan applications rejected than white-owned businesses. Thus, it's imperative that Black business owners have access to resources and funding that will help them achieve and sustain business success.

At Optimum Business, we value the significant contributions of Black entrepreneurs and proudly announce, this Black History Month, that as part of our ongoing partnership with the Coalition to Back Black Business (CBBB), we have provided 93 $5,000 grants to Black-owned small businesses across 40 states to support their growth and long-term success. The Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB) is a multi-year initiative to support Black-owned small businesses and the communities they serve as they recover from the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and chart a path forward.

The Coalition was established in September 2020 by American Express, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Business League, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., and Walker's Legacy. With assistance from companies like Optimum Business, CBBB is distributing nearly $14 million in grants and long-term mentorship and resources to empower Black small business owners across the country through 2024.

Recent grant recipient LaQuette Lucas, founder of Boss Moss, can continue to help those in need balance and strengthen their immune system with the support of the CBBB grant from Optimum Business.

Lucas was inspired to start her business after recovering from a hard battle with COVID-19. Upon recovery, Lucas switched her diet and incorporated Irish Moss into her daily ritual. Already aware of the benefits of Irish Moss from when she took it regularly in the past, she added it back into her diet. "Upon sharing my daily set-up along with the benefits of Irish Moss, friends started to ask if they could purchase it from me. As the interest grew, I figured I was on to something and decided to turn it into a business so I could provide this health option to those who seek it," explains Lucas.

While Boss Moss serves all communities looking to balance out their health, Lucas understands that the Black community is not always privy to information to help improve their health. So, it's important for Lucas to share the necessary information detailing the benefits of Irish Moss and how a balanced diet helps encourage lifestyle changes.

"The role the community plays in Boss Moss is the wonderful sharing of our product benefits based on their own experiences. We have received so much great feedback from those that have boosted their energy, noticed they do not get either sick at all, or it has lessened how they have become more active and for some have even lost weight. For every story they share, social media post they place up, or review they write, they help introduce our brand to a wider audience that may not have been aware of such wonderful health benefits," states Lucas.

Acquiring business credit was a roadblock Lucas overcame. This credit and the funding from the CBBB grant have helped tremendously with marketing. "While it's important to utilize social media with ads, etc., I had to realize it's most important to build your email list and cater to those on that list. They are typically your repeat customers, so offering them exclusive sales, etc., and keeping an open dialogue is key."

Lucas continues, "If you have a strong outline of your business and its goals and trajectory as a company and can pitch to investors, do so. If not, try pitching to family and friends so they can reap the benefits of investing in you. Most importantly, research and create a budget! Know what it costs to operate in your field and what it will take to fund it. Even more important, make sure you get your personal credit in order! When you have a good credit score of at least 680 and above and legitimize your business by becoming an LLC at least to start, you can start building business credit and acquire lines of credit to assist in funding your overhead."

Lucas credits research and preparation as helpful components in her entrepreneurial experience. "When you arm yourself with proper information, it makes it easier to become a product of your product, which allows you to sell to others via education rather than just trying to make a sale. When you can stand on solid ground and just have a conversation, it makes all the difference," states Lucas.

Listening to the feedback from the Boss Moss customers helps Lucas determine when it is the right time to grow her business. "You have to listen to your clients and understand their needs and wants in order to diversify the options available." After hearing requests for a beverage or pill form of the product, Boss Moss offers Irish Moss in fruit-infused gel form, powder for beverages, and pill form. The company also provides Elderberry tincture, "which helps fight cold and flu and maintain a strong immune system," says Lucas. "We will also be introducing gummies and beverages in the springtime and adding other sea vegetables such as bladderwrack, which is an excellent source for iodine, rich in antioxidants, aids in digestion, and supports heart health." Boss Moss has added an educational section of e-books on their site for download as well.

As an online business, technology and connectivity are very important to Boss Moss's operations and have also helped the small business through the pandemic. "The best way to sell was/is via online. It allows the customer to shop directly with you from the comfort of their home and receive our products. It also eliminates overhead costs such as rent, travel, and employees. Virtual is truly the way to go in today's times," declares Lucas.

For those starting a business, Lucas advises, "to do something you love. When you do, you will never work a day in your life!" And having either substantial savings or a job that can support you while you build your brand simultaneously is helpful so you don't deplete yourself financially. "It takes money to truly build up your brand. Understand it won't happen overnight, so it's important to be dedicated and stay the course. You may not reach true success until years in. Have a vision, have a plan, be able to adjust as hurdles come and learn from those who are where you are trying to go," advises Lucas.

It is through the continued patronage of our customers that we are able to support small businesses through efforts like the CBBB grant partnership, and give back to the community. We are always grateful for your loyalty.

To read more stories from small businesses like you or find solutions to meet your growing business needs, check out the Optimum Business Digital Toolkit.