HOUSTON - As businesses struggle to stay open, during the pandemic, some are feeling more pressure than others. That is especially true for Black-owned businesses.
A Stanford University study projects more than 40% of Black-owned businesses are in danger of closing, forever, exacerbating some of the unique challenges that minority entrepreneurs already face.
Some of those challenges go all the way to the top. High above downtown Houston, investment banker Gerald Smith appears to be on top of his business game. However, he says that success only came after years of battling prejudice, and striking out on his own.
"If you are really trying to achieve where you are really in control of your own destiny, you need to run your own business," advises Smith.
During a busy lunch-time rush, where there's little time to take a breath, that same inspiration is what drove Ryan and Kevin Muccular to open their Katy restaurant, That's My Dog.
"When you are starting from scratch, and literally having to get the 'word' out there; the 'taste' out there; you present yourself and your product ... it can be quite a challenge," says Ryan.
But the challenges to finding success, as a Black-owned business, is not new.
"The pulse of it, I would say, is somewhat weak," laments Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce president Carol Guess.
A 2020 small-business survey, by Guidant Financial, finds most Black-owned businesses are service-oriented, with five or fewer employees, funded, overwhelmingly, by cash, friends, and family. That last point is the biggest hurdle, with most owners saying it's not easy finding financial backing.
"It's not from lack of wanting to do well; wanting to give back to the community; wanting to give back to the bottom line of the local economy: it's access and opportunity," says Guess.
Ryan and Kevin Muccular would add that it's also essential to put out the welcome mat for whoever walks through the door.
"It's not until you go in and get your own experience with that restaurant or owner ... that you find out that you're going to be loved-on and you're going to receive the same hospitality that anyone else would, who walked through the door," says Kevin.
To help overcome some of the funding challenges that some small businesses face, Comcast has announced that Houston is one of five cities that will share in $5 million dollars worth of grants, for black, indigenous and people-of-color (BIPOC) owned small businesses. In Houston, that'll be a hundred grants awarded by the end of May.