Supporting Black-Owned Businesses is Good for our EconomyFebruary 6, 2023
Black people represent 12.8% of our nation, yet only 2.4% of U.S. businesses have Black owners, according to research by the Alliance for Entrepreneurial Equity (AEE). That disproportion has significant implications.
In fact, the AEE estimates that if Black-owned businesses were proportionate to the population, it would mean 738,000 more businesses would create nearly 7 million more jobs in Black communities and $733 billion more in revenue.
This gets to the heart of why we should celebrate and support Black-owned businesses. It creates opportunity, builds up community, enriches culture, and makes for a more resilient economy.
Carlsbad is proud to be home to a number of Black-owned businesses that are thriving. And in honor of Black History Month, we wanted to profile a few of the entrepreneurs behind these companies. These are their stories, and what Black History Month means to them.
Elaine Swann, Founder and Owner of The Swann School of Protocol
If you’ve wondered whether your email manners are on point, or if you’re tipping an appropriate amount, The Swann School of Protocol may be for you.
Elaine Swann started the institute after struggling with her own social inhibitions. She conquered them through years of training, becoming an etiquette expert.
“After gaining that knowledge, I knew I wanted to help others feel graceful, confident and complete,” she said of the inspiration behind The Swann School of Protocol.
Twenty years later, her business is booming. She and her staff offer certifications, corporate training, classes and courses at their 1,500-square-foot facility in Carlsbad.
“What makes us unique is that we keep up with the times,” Elaine added. “As things like mask etiquette and social distancing have emerged during the pandemic, we’ve adapted along with new social norms.”
Reflecting on the growth of her business, Elaine is thankful for how the Carlsbad business community has embraced her—something she said “has meant so much, especially as a woman of color building a business.”
“I’m the first entrepreneur in my family. And in fact, a first-generation American, as my family immigrated here from Panama,” she said.
Her path to success has taken hard work, and this Black History Month, she’s celebrating how far she and so many others have come.
“I started my business in my garage and now I have the blessing of being an employer to others so they can earn rewarding livelihoods, “she said.
Kevin Clemons, Founder and Owner of Au Technology Solutions
Did you know that small businesses are three times more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals than larger companies?
It’s something Kevin Clemons knows all too well—and a big reason he launched his company, Au Technology Solutions.
“We specialize in serving small businesses because having an in-house IT department is often cost-prohibitive for them—but that’s where we can help,” he said.
Kevin and his team offer cybersecurity, helpdesk support, network monitoring, system repair, staff training and more.
“We don’t outsource anything. All of our talent is local, which means we always have fast response times,” he added.
As a North County native, local roots matter to Kevin. He started Au Technology Solutions a decade ago after serving in the US Navy and knew that Carlsbad was precisely where he wanted to headquarter his operations.
“Carlsbad is the holy grail if you’re serving other businesses. There are so many small businesses here, and they are all so supportive of each other,” he said. “Supporting local businesses is the biggest thing you can do to uplift your community.”
Even with community support, as a Black entrepreneur, Kevin said it hasn’t always been easy because access to capital and mentorship haven’t been readily available. But he’s encouraged by the progress he’s seen in recent years.
For example, he recently helped Microsoft shape its Black Channel Partner Association, which helps scale Black-owned technology businesses. For the last two years, Kevin has also served as President of the San Diego Chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners.
“Seeing Microsoft invest in my business has been amazing to see,” he reflected. “Even in the last couple of years, I’ve seen access to resources improve and that’s meaningful progress.”
Stephanie Barneburg, Founder and Owner of Sparkle Freshness
When Stephanie Barneburg first became a mother, her son was born three months premature. It was an understandable stressful time, and she still remembers the anxiety of bringing him home.
“I remember the hospital staff was telling me how important it was to keep our home clean and free of chemicals. My son was very delicate, and as his mother, it was now my job to provide a safe home for him. As a new mom, that really hit a cord for me,” she recalled.
She went home and started investigating all the chemicals in her household cleaners.
“I was floored by how harsh these ingredients were, and how they can literally be toxic if you combine them,” she said. “The long-term impacts of these chemicals can be detrimental, and many of us don’t realize it.”
From that moment on, she committed to natural cleaning remedies—and while she didn’t know it then, this would be the start of her entrepreneurial journey.
Over the next several years, she studied natural cleaning and its many benefits. In 2011, she decided to take her knowledge to market by starting Sparkle Freshness, a commercial cleaning company that specializes in being green.
Today, her company has grown to include a full staff who serve many companies across North County.
“We have a deep-rooted foundation and gratitude to be here in Carlsbad, where so many businesses understand the value of sustainable living,” she said. “They’ve supported us, and we’re thankful for their partnership.”
“Fifty years ago, I couldn’t have run a business this successful as a Black woman,” she said. “New things are being made possible. So, for me, Black History Month is about celebrating how far we’ve come—and how far we will continue to go.”
These are just a few examples of some of the great Black-owned businesses we have in Carlsbad and out surrounding region. Collectively, these entrepreneurs contribute tremendously to the fabric of Carlsbad, and our nation. Supporting them has a positive ripple effect in our community and our economy.