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May 9, 2016

Why Some Black Entrepreneurs Hide Their "Blackness"

Black business owner hiding

An owner of a patio-installation business was successful in building his company to a $6 million enterprise over 9 years. The interesting part of this story is that the owner did it by hiding the fact that he was a black business owner. His story is just one of many by black entrepreneurs who have to hide the fact that they are black in order to succeed.

Fear of losing customers

Many black entrepreneurs go so far as to keep their picture out of their web sites and marketing materials, have other white employees do their interviewing, and try to hide the fact that they are the owner. It's not just the customers they are concerned about losing; it's also investors.

Are the concerns real?

Their concerns are not fabricated. A 2014 Nielsen report on African-American buying habits showed that only 20 percent of whites and other non-African Americans indicated they would buy or support a product sold by a person of color or minority-owned business. Compare this to the 55 percent of blacks with household incomes of at least $50,000 who responded that they would support a black business.

Others, like assistant professor of marketing at Chicago State University, Joni Jackson, thinks the hiding of black ownership only encourages a perception of inferiority among black-owned businesses. She also has concerns about the reaction by others when black-owned companies finally do reveal the fact that they are African American.

But many black business owners are adamant that they sometimes have no choice but to hide their blackness if they want to grow. As James Parker, owner of stated, "I need people to look at the app, and not the app developer yet."