By Charles H. DeBow, III

As we honor and celebrate Black History Month, we must reflect not only on the past struggles and triumphs of the Black community but also on current opportunities and challenges, especially in entrepreneurship. 

In today’s digital age, technology plays a crucial role in the success of all businesses. That’s why it’s paramount that all entrepreneurs, including the Black community, have access to these game-changing resources. Creating an environment where technological advancements and innovations are encouraged and strengthened is vital for Black business owners and entrepreneurs.

In a rapidly evolving world, technology is a powerful tool to help level the playing field for small businesses. Bridging the digital divide and equipping Black business owners and entrepreneurs with online tools, technologies, digital literacy resources, and more can translate to real-world opportunities and successes. Digital marketing tools and e-commerce platforms can offer Black-owned businesses the tools they need to streamline operations, reach new customers, and enhance efficiencies.

For the 3.2 million Black-owned businesses in the United States, leveraging technology and embracing innovation is a crucial driver of success, enabling businesses to stand out in a competitive market. A new Intuit QuickBooks survey found that 82 percent of Black-owned small businesses own a patent, trademark or copyright. Additionally, Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs are leaning into technological advancements, particularly with the recent surge in artificial intelligence (AI). The same survey found that 84 percent of Black business owners use AI to help run their businesses.

Access to technological innovations can make or break a business, and the tools developed by American technology companies are narrowing the digital divide and providing new avenues for increased opportunities and growth. According to a Connected Commerce Council survey, 85 percent of Black-owned businesses cite digital tools as a key part of their operations, and 83 percent saw a “noticeable impact” when using digital tools to grow their business. That’s why it is crucial for policymakers to continue supporting policies that promote innovation and advance technological developments to help businesses succeed. 

Black-owned businesses are spurring the economy – generating $206 billion in annual revenue and creating 3.56 million jobs nationwide – driving U.S. patent and trademark applications and creating tech-focused communities, such as boot camps, workshops, and entrepreneurship classes, for other Black individuals to learn from.

But to maintain America’s technology and economic edge against strong global competition, we need to harness all the talent we have in this country. That’s why my organization, the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), not only assists Black-owned businesses to better deploy these powerful tech tools, but we also connect them with capital, mentors, contracting opportunities, and international connections to help scale their companies and to build the relationships necessary to ensure their businesses are multi-generational enterprises. In fact, in 2024, the NBCC is launching an even larger technical assistance program to help more Black entrepreneurs succeed.

Black History Month reminds us that small businesses are the backbone of our communities. By embracing technology and promoting innovation, we can empower Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive and succeed in an increasingly competitive and online marketplace. Let’s continue championing policies that drive U.S. innovation and technology that can continue to create new opportunities for Black small business owners to grow and thrive.

Charles H. DeBow, III, is president & CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, which is dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining African American communities through entrepreneurship and capitalistic activity.