Growing Black businesses through holidays and pandemic

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By Jillene Williams

Guest Columnist

As a local entrepreneur and small business owner, I know firsthand that community support can make or break you as a business owner.

That has never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic as many businesses remain isolated from customers and the community.

When I started my business, Amethyst Soul Home, over three years ago, my goal was to share with the community the simple, coconut wax candles I made to help my mom enjoy scented candles again.

My mom, a breast cancer survivor, suffered from scent sensitivity from the store-bought candles I had in my home, which put me on a path to learn how to make my own candles, free from toxic chemicals and harsh additives that irritated her.

Soon, I had built not only a recipe for a naturally scented homemade candle, but one that my mother could enjoy the scents and comfort of alongside me in my home. Sales grew steadily solely online throughout those three years, so when the pandemic hit in March, like many other businesses, I panicked, having no idea what the future looked like for me.

As so many small businesses around me were shutting their doors, I tried to stay focused on why I do what I do — to provide some light when times are dark. Suddenly, with many stuck at home and desperate to find that light, our sales skyrocketed.

I was one of the lucky businesses that had a product in which the demand was increasing from the pandemic. I realize how fortunate I am to have kept my business not only running this year, but thriving, as I know many of my peers and fellow Black-owned small businesses have not been as lucky.

Alarmingly, Black-owned businesses have closed at twice the rate of other businesses this year, and as the pandemic continues and we head into what’s typically the busiest shopping season of the year, it’s critical that we remain focused on supporting Black-owned businesses through to the other side of this crisis.

Thanks to Facebook’s #BuyBlack Friday Gift Guide, showing this support has never been easier. More than 60 Black-owned businesses across the U.S., including seven Los Angeles businesses, are featured in this guide, and I’m honored to have my SouLuxe Amber Noir candle highlighted alongside the incredible products of my peers.

This gift guide provides a way for you to get online and safely show your support for small businesses during this crisis, and to have a curation of products made and designed by trailblazing Black entrepreneurs is the icing on the cake. I’m pleased to see big corporations like Facebook stepping up and making efforts like these to lift up Black businesses at a time that has never been more consequential.

Being selected to be featured in this guide has been a blessing that I do not take for granted. It’s my hope to help spark more positive momentum to support fellow Black businesses as they head into this holiday season.

As Angelenos shop for their loved ones this holiday season, I urge you to seek out the Black-owned businesses that have been hit hardest during this pandemic. This summer, the Black Lives Matter movement inspired ripples of change across our nation, with people of all races and backgrounds advocating for the Black community.

Let’s continue the momentum to support these businesses here in Los Angeles. Whether you’re shopping their online stores or sharing their social media pages with your friends, these actions could be the reason one of our local businesses is able to make it through this crisis.

It’s critical that we remain focused on supporting Black-owned businesses through to the other side of this crisis.

Jillene Williams is the owner of Amethyst Soul Home.