Google is promoting a tool that lets users search directly for Black-owned businesses in their area as part of a new initiative to uplift Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. The tool can be used by searching “Black-owned businesses near me” in Google Maps or Google Search, and filters through local businesses to help users support Black-owned in their area. Google first introduced the tool last summer, but is promoting it during Black history month as a reminder that the fight for racial equity is nowhere near over. You may notice it right now on Google’s home page, for example.
Now, nearly a year later, we spoke with Black business owners from around the United States on how Google’s tool has impacted their business, as well as how they think major tech companies like Google can continue to help them in the future. “I have seen an uptick in my business in the last year despite the pandemic and many people have credited Google searches for finding me,” says Aleasa Word, owner of A. Word & Company, a bespoke consulting firm focused on anti-racism training.
“While we do not yet have a physical location, we only appear on a Google search under our Google MyBusiness account,” says Tamika, the founder and owner of Allure Wigs. “We too have categorized our profile as black-owned.As a result, I will say that we have seen an influx of white women pouring in to support our business over the past few months. Of course we are very excited for this change as we have now reached a broader audience,” she says.
Additionally, the resource appears to have helped other Black business owners connect with one another. “Due to this optimization that Google created, I was able to connect with a lot of Black people both near and far, and apart from the absolute increase in visitors and queries our pastry store have been receiving ever since this started, this also became a way for me to connect with other small business owners and source my direct needs from them instead,” says Alicia Hough, a corporate wellness expert that also runs a small pastry business.
Google revealed that the inspiration for its business search tool came after noticing an uptick in searches for “Black-owned businesses” throughout the last year. Additionally, Google also pledged to support racial equity financially by donating an additional $12 million to several programs in the United States to help fight racial inequity and equal justice. The $12 million is in addition to the $32 million that Google has donated to racial justice initiatives over the last five years, and the $25 million it promised in ad grants to organizations that are providing information about equal justice.
While Google’s new resource to help Black-owned businesses seems to be a good step, many business owners point out that tech companies can do a lot more to help them succeed—especially after tech companies have, in the past, stifled Black entrepreneurs on social media. The tool is only effective if users are searching for Black-owned businesses, but they may not know to do that if the company is not promoting the tool.
“Tech companies like Google can further support Black-owned businesses with tools to help people find us more easily, but I also feel strongly that they should explain why supporting Black-owned businesses is important by educating the public about the history of racism leveled against thriving Black financial and economic communities such as in Tulsa, Rosewood, and hundreds of other locations,” says Seun Adedeji, CEO & Founder Elev8 Cannabis.
“As a black business owner who is delighted that there are efforts to launch greater awareness of the need to circulate wealth, I am also challenged” says Deneen Weathersby, COO of MAG Spaces. “My challenge lies in the fact that these efforts are ‘glossing’ over the real problem, and possibly creating other problems,” she says.
Weathersby also pointed out that Google could additionally increase its efforts to hire Black developers and invest in education that will promote racial equity in the United States. Apple recently announced that it would be investing in engineering programs in places like Detroit and in HBCU’s around the country as it hopes to uplift a new generation of Black tech workers.
“We are finding that more people are finding us and big tech can help amplify that by placing value on the search terms that help us, change the algorithms that suppress our posts and stop amplifying businesses that aren’t truly black owned but are just pretending to be,” says LaTasha Stewart-Estelle, owner of the Black Love Boutique. “A quick search and you can spot the fakes yet they are pushed to the top. There is a lot of work to be done,” she says.
“Well, we were also able to notice the uptick in searches for the ‘black-owned businesses’ keyword,” says Ali Scarlett, a digital marketing expert that had the idea to create an app that would compile Black-owned businesses before Google released the feature. “If you do not yet know, anyone can go to trends.google.com right now and take a look at the numbers. And, unluckily, our conclusion that there wasn’t a big enough demand was right. There are many contributing factors, but we can safely say that we have seen no changes in customers visiting us over the last year due to this new feature,” says Scarlett.
Scarlett also argued that Black-owned businesses are struggling during the pandemic especially. While directing traffic in their direction might be a small step, it doesn’t often do enough—especially since the tool won’t do much if the customer isn’t interested in what the business is selling. “If Google wants to better assist black business owners right now, they can provide what we’re all in need of due to the pandemic. Grant funding,” she says.