New data indicates state of Black and minority-owned businesses in Sumter, Lee and Clarendon Counties
The Sumter Black Chamber of Commerce collected data from a survey over the past year. Over 500 responses show challenges and strengths of minority-owned businesses.
SUMTER, S.C. — New survey results are showing the state of Black-owned businesses in Sumter, Lee and Clarendon counties. This data has been collected over the past year through the Sumter Black Chamber of Commerce (BCC), which is using the information to better serve Black and minority business owners.
“It’s good to work around your friends, see your friends, see all of us growing together,” Carolyn Webb-Prince explains.
“We have a population that we serve that varies in age from 18 to 90 years old. So we do have to be aware of all the resources that are available in the community,” Crystal Webb says. “So the Black Chamber of Commerce just kind of brings everyone together so you know what those resources are that are available to the population that we serve, so they can get the best service possible.”
Business owners like the Webb-Prince family had the chance to fill out a rolling survey over the past year, created by the Sumter (BCC).
“Our goals is dealing with some of the issues that face more minority businesses versus businesses in general,” BCC President Elayne Brunson shares. “Basically we use this survey for strategic planning to sort of determine what are the strengths and what are the weaknesses of the minority-owned businesses in our region.”
Brunson worked to compile the data from over 500 responses. 59% of respondents identify as non-white women, 32% indicated they are African American and 5% marked they are veterans from a variety of industries ranging from food to retail to service and beyond. Data shows the number one issue business owners feel they face is access to capital, an answer that 41% of voters selected.
“A large percentage of our businesses are in low-to-moderate income communities. And so that is definitely a trend,” Brunson explains, drawing attention to the newly-purchased Sumter BCC building on S. Main Street. “And so minority-owned businesses, I think capital could be an issue, especially in our community, because, like…just look at where we’re at. This is the low-to-moderate income side of the community. And so being that they already have those burdens, that’s making it a little harder for them to access capital.”
Brunson tells me she’s planning the annual procurement to connect minority-owned businesses with funding from federal and local municipalities. When it comes to the most challenging expense, the survey shows that 33% of respondents selected “supplies,” with “office rent” getting 30%.
“We are working on an incubator hub for minority-owned businesses, so that’s going to be a way that we try to rectify the high rent area,” Brunson adds. “I feel like if folks come together in a hub, and we’re sharing utilities and we’re available to be there for each other for mentorship and guidance, it just allows A) your overhead to go down for your business and then B) you can get ideas from others that you may be able to apply to your business by being in that center together and working with other people who may be in similar situations or have already passed the hump and who can give you advice.”
Survey respondents also noted their desire for more financial literacy education, with 24% of responses indicating this is how Sumter BCC could help the community. This came in at second, with 27% of results indicating a business structure education would be most helpful.
“Financial literacy is a big thing on our list,” Brunson says. “And I just feel like especially with the things going on in our community, it’s just really evident that financial education is definitely a need here.”
The Chamber is using the rest of the survey results to continue developing a strategic plan, while strengthening the network of minority business owners throughout the community, which Webb-Prince appreciates.
“Networking is always good, you know? And to network with your, your peers, people that…and you know, we all are made in God’s image, but people that look like you, people that want the same ideas,” Webb-Prince starts. “You see growth, you know, there’s been a lot of growth in the Black community. And I want it to continue to grow upward.”
Sumter BCC is currently in its pilot phase after starting in 2020, but Brunson says it is accepting new members as it prepares for its official launch in September.