CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati councilwoman and the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio want you to support local black-owned businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic in an initiative called #CincyBuyBlackThursdays.
Carol Ruffin owns Blossoms Florist in Reading.
“I love flowers and people. I don’t know which one I love the most,” Ruffin said.
But after the coronavirus hit, clients started canceling and postponing weddings and other events that call for flowers. Ruffin had to change the way she does business and instead focus on small events and floral arrangements.
“I've been doing deliveries to the home. We will sit the arrangements on your porch and ring the bell with a mask on and keep on going,” Ruffin said.
It's small local businesses like Blossoms that Cincinnati city councilwoman Jan-Michele Kearney is trying to protect with her new initiative.
“The reason that I started #CincyBuyBlackThursdays is because, just like health disparities, black businesses suffer as well. They are being hit the hardest,” Kearney said.
She said black-owned businesses are the most likely to not make it to the other side of an economic recession.
"You know the Paycheck Protection Program that everyone was so excited about? Then we found out that a lot of black businesses couldn’t get the money. The center for responsible lending estimated that 95 percent of black businesses didn't get money from that first round,” Kearney said.
Gail Billings owns Edibles-N-Such in Fairfax. She says the key to surviving is staying relevant.
“The black businesses, we don’t have the dollars for advertising that the white companies do, so we have to re-create ourselves and pivot our business,” Billings said.
When her catering gigs dried up, she switched to offering “meals to go” every Thursday.
“I wanted to stay afloat. I wanted to keep my name out there so that people will still remember me when the catering needs do come later,” Billings said.
Councilwoman Kearney wants residents to make an effort to find black-owned businesses and post about their experience on social media with the #CincyBuyBlackThursdays hashtag.
“It’s just a way we can all support each other. Support all our businesses; just don’t forget black businesses,” Kearney said.
You can find a list of black-owned businesses on the city's black business database.