Locally-owned Black businesses pivot, brace for further pandemic disruptions

Posted at 5:12 PM, Aug 25, 2021

CINCINNATI — COVID-19 hit those who run local businesses hard, as seen by multiple daily news headlines over the past 19 months.

The chaos created by the pandemic's effect on the economy also highlighted some of the disparities Black business owners face.

RELATED: Here's how Black-owned Cincinnati businesses are faring one year into the COVID-19 economic crisis

That was true for the owner of GO(O)D Co. Apparel, which closed its doors as quickly as it opened in March.

"And we were shut down until July 1," said Danny Harper, owner of GO(O)D Co. "It really impacted our brand because our online sales aren't quite where we want them to be."

That doubly hurt Harper's business, because 80% of his sales had been face-to-face.

"Figuring out how to market online to get the brand out there, it was really difficult because, during that time, nobody could really be outside to do guerrilla marketing, and I love guerrilla marketing," he said.

Harper was able to bounce back, though, with the help of MORTAR, an organization known for helping and providing resources to Black-owned businesses throughout Greater Cincinnati.

"A lot of our alumni were not doing online e-commerce, so when the pandemic hit, we had to figure out how do we help them to understand the differences between all of these different platforms and your POS (point of sale) and how to get your website ready to go so that you could accept payments," said Allen Woods, co-founder of MORTAR.

And when Black-owned businesses struggled to secure federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, the group stepped in with funding from the city and community partners in the form of grants.

The Confetti Room, located at 1531 Race St. in Over-the-Rhine, was one of the more than 350 businesses that got that vital grant money.

"Our numbers were scarce, and so grants like those basically helped to ensure that we were able to take care of our overhead expenses, make sure that the staff that we did still have were able to be able to make a living," said Simone Charles, founder of The Confetti Room.

The pandemic hit the wedding and event industry hard in 2020. Now with the delta variant looming, Charles said she is worried ... but prepared.

"As a business owner, I think COVID has added to what we know that we can now do, and our ability to be able to shift in and basically make it through," she said.