Once again, the country is reeling after another abhorrent death. Breonna Taylor. Darrien Hunt. Amaud Arbery, George Floyd. Countless others. Now, Jacob Blake.
In response to these horrific and unjust deaths, we saw the Black Lives Matter movement gain traction and support this summer. As people all across the country continue to protest in the streets, tens of thousands of Utahns are expressing their own style of protesting – not only in the streets – but also with support for Black-owned businesses. By putting their money where it really counts, Utahns are showing their love and support in meaningful ways and for that, I am so incredibly grateful.
As Black Business Month comes to a close, I’d like to encourage Utahns to not just support Black business owners this month, but to do so all year round. Utah is the fourth-least diverse state in our nation with Black people making up just 1.23 percent of our population. That’s why it’s extremely important to open our community’s eyes to what Black businesses have to offer. The recent outpouring of love and support means everything to me as a Black business owner. For Black people to be celebrated as the innovators and groundbreaking creatives that we are is particularly special.
I started my business, Sheer Ambrosia Bakery, more than 11 years ago and I’m known for my artisan baklava, which is handcrafted and made-to-order with genuine love and passion — I’m a stickler for a perfect presentation.
Due to my famous baklava, my business has thrived over the years, but when COVID-19 first hit, my sales plummeted and I had to get a day job just to make ends meet. I also knew that in order to retain and recruit new customers I needed to maintain an active digital presence. I used Facebook and Instagram to post photos of my baklava, share interviews I did with the media and tell my story of the struggles I’ve faced and overcome as a Black woman in Utah.
The positive response I received on social media was overwhelming. As a result of the outpouring of support from the community, new customers, and fellow businesses on social media, I made more in sales during the pandemic this year than I usually do during the busy holiday season.
I feel lucky that my bakery is still open and, as a Black female business owner, I feel it is my responsibility to advocate for the continued support and elevation of the diverse business community in Utah.
What can business owners do? Invest in and support each other.
I just contracted another small business run by a young, stay-at-home mother to take photos of my baklava after finding her Instagram page showcasing her work. I was excited to hire someone so talented in a field I am not as familiar with. Since visuals and aesthetics on social media are gold mine marketing tools, I knew she would be a huge asset to my business. I urge fellow business owners to make a concerted effort to hire and cultivate a more diverse workforce. Lift where you live.
What can local media do? Recognize that representation matters.
While we are few, our numbers are growing. The Utah Department of Health reports our state’s Black population grew by 77% from 2000 to 2010, and it’s important that our representation in the media reflects this. I ask local media to elevate this community by featuring Black and other minority-owned businesses and stories in the papers, online, and on the news. I am so thankful to the Salt Lake Tribune, Marketplace on NPR, and Good Things Utah for featuring me on their pages and shows. This kind of marketing is invaluable to small businesses.
And finally, what can you as a local citizen do? Buy from Black businesses.
Show your support in the most tangible way there is — buying our products. Facebook and Instagram just updated their Businesses Nearby tool to make it easier to identify and support Black-owned businesses in your area. Follow local Black businesses on social media and stay up to date on promotions. You can also become your own local media army by sharing your experiences, positive reviews, and posting your delicious baklava photos on social media. The online community has kept me afloat during these times, and I know it will continue to be a lifeline for others.
COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon, but we want our local businesses to survive, and long past this. Throughout Black Business Month and this summer, Utah has buoyed us up with support and sales, but let’s not lose that momentum. Let’s make the changes necessary as business owners, members of the media, and citizens to support Black-owned businesses — every month of the year.
Sherrita Magalde, Salt Lake City, is the owner of Sheer Ambrosia Bakery.